In July 2018, Mr. Juan Alberto Ojeda, 33, a mechanic of Kissimmee, Florida was working in the backstage vehicle maintenance area of the Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. He was attempting to repair a utility cart that had been reported for not starting up. For four years, Juan gained knowledge about his job, in an apprenticeship program offered at Disney. After finishing the course, he advanced to the position of a journeyman.
After inspecting the cart, Ojeda realized its battery needed charging, so he placed jumper cables on the power unit and the engine started. He reached into the front of the utility cart and at that moment; the vehicle jumped the curb. According to eyewitnesses, after the vehicle landed on the curb, it proceeded to travel about 3 to 6 feet up a chain-linked fence before falling on the victim, pinning him to the ground.
His fellow workers, Danny Vazquez and Josh Willner rushed over to help Juan, by trying to lift the cart off his body, but it was too heavy. For a brief moment, they thought about reversing the vehicle off him; however, they felt that would do even more damage. Ojeda stated he was having trouble breathing before losing consciousness. He died at the scene.
Juan Ojeda left behind his wife, Leslie and his young son.
After this horrific incident, Leslie Ojeda hired James Provencher, an Orlando attorney that represented the family. In the meantime, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted an investigation. This agency is under the umbrella of The Department of Labor in Washington D.C. and was established and signed into law under the presidency of Richard Nixon.
OSHA’s goal is to make sure the workplace has stringent standards in place for the health and safety of employees in the United States. Since its creation in the 1970s, health hazards, illnesses, and overall fatalities have diminished by more than half.
After investigating the casualty involving Juan Ojeda, OSHA determined in an edited 250-page report, that in the future Disney is required to train their workers, making sure that they follow the guidelines in the utility cart’s manufacturer manual. According to Disney’s service manager, Ronald Ehmer, manufacturer’s manuals were in their mechanic’s shop, but it was not mandatory for the workers to use them.
The agency also noted that Ojeda had not used precaution, such as a block and tackle or jacks when dealing with the runaway vehicle. In the end, Walt Disney World was not fined or cited because OSHA felt it was not their fault, they had not breached any safety rules.
Mrs. Leslie Ojeda and her attorney then filed a 15,000 dollar wrongful death lawsuit against the companies, Toro Co. and Wesco Turf, the manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of the utility vehicle, stating that the cart was defective and dangerous. They have yet to respond.