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LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- (WDRB) For the first time since a 2009 derailment sent 22 people to the hospital, trains have returned to the Louisville Zoo. But, it's going to be several months before the new trains get rolling.
The Louisville Zoo spent $1 million to buy the two new trains and repair the tracks. The trains are manufactured by a British company, which also provides trains for Disney. The zoo said they contain safety features designed to prevent a repeat of the 2009 accident.
"Each train is equipped with numerous safety features, including an automatic shutdown of the drive system when the throttle is released," said zoo spokesperson Kyle Shepherd.
Seventeen children and five adults were hurt in the 2009 derailment. A state investigation later blamed excessive speed, lack of proper maintenance, and inadequate operator training.
The city paid more than a half-million dollars to settle most of the claims.
This time, zoo officials said, the trains will not roll until the staff is trained.
"The company that manufactured the trains will come and teach our folks how to use them and what their recommendations are for the best operating procedures. And we're also going to be working with a consultant to develop a training manual," said Shepherd.
But why bring the train back at all after what happened in 2009? The reason, said Shepherd, is because the customers want it.
"The number one question that we're asked by our patrons is, 'When is the train coming back?'"
Chad Gardner represents four of the most badly injured victims who have not yet settled. He said it may be true that the zoo is responding to customer requests. But added that the train is also a huge moneymaker.
"Every person who gets on that train needs to know that Louisville Metro's position is, if we turn the train over again and hurt you, we will not stand accountable for it," said Gardner.
But that thought was far from the minds of these zoo visitors from Lincoln Elementary. Almost all were glad to see the train's return, including parent Ryan Stansbury.
"I'm super-excited to have it back. They say it's going to be safer, which is always a positive thing. So, I'm really stoked about it."
The city is appealing a ruling from last fall that several zoo employees involved in the accident can be sued.
Meantime, the new trains will roll sometime this spring.