JUDGE: Metro Louisville immune from lawsuit in Louisville Zoo - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JUDGE: Metro Louisville immune from lawsuit in Louisville Zoo train wreck

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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- A judge has ruled that Louisville Metro Government is immune from a lawsuit in the June 2009 train crash at the Louisville Zoo in which the open-air train flipped over on its side.  The crash sent 22 people, many of them children, to hospitals.

Judge Frederic Cowan also ruled that the Louisville Zoo Foundation and several individuals also are immune from a lawsuit.  Those individuals include Dan Cole, a Guest Services Supervisor who supervised the train operator, and Alex Holback and Ariel Saylor, Seasonal Guest Services employees who helped train the operator.

A report the Kentucky Department of Agriculture released in March of 2010 pointed to three contributing factors that led to the accident -- excessive speed as the train went through the downhill curve, the poor mechanical condition of the train, and inadequate operator training.

According to the report, the operator says that was the first day she had operated any zoo train by herself.  She also said the manual provided by the zoo did not have a description of the train's controls or how to stop it in an emergency.  The report says the operator told investigators the zoo's manual focused on the speech to give during the train ride.

The 12-page report also said multiple brake shoes should have been replaced, an improper replacement part had been used on the emergency air brake, the operator failed to follow the correct braking procedures, and the train was running "in significant excess" of the recommended 12 mph.

Inspectors say when the train failed to slow down, the driver incorrectly pumped the brake lever several times. When that didn't work, she tried to pull the parking brake, mistaking it for the emergency brake.

The report says the train tipped over as it approached a right turn at Gorilla Forest.  The operator says she then radioed for help, and Metro Police and EMS were called right away.

Metro Government paid out more than $525,000 to the victims, which settled 23 of 29 claims.

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