Universal Studios tram tossed "multiple" riders to the ground, accident investigators say

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - MAY 25, 2023 - Visitors enter the set or Jupiter's Claim from the movie, "Nope," while taking the Universal Studios Tram Tour on May 25, 2023. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Visitors enter the set of Jupiter's Claim from the movie "Nope" while taking the Universal Studios tram tour on May 25, 2023. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

For the record:
3:01 p.m. April 22, 2024: An earlier version of this article said 15 riders on the Universal Studios Hollywood tram attraction were thrown to the ground. The California Highway Patrol said “multiple” riders were thrown to the ground and that a total of 15 were injured.

A tram vehicle at Universal Studios Hollywood threw "multiple" riders to the ground after it struck a guardrail near props from the "Jurassic Park" film franchise in an accident that is under investigation by the California Highway Patrol.

Details of the accident that took place Saturday night — amid the 60th anniversary of the attraction — remain sketchy, but the CHP said the agency has determined that drugs and alcohol were not a factor in the crash that injured 15 park visitors.

The tram was driving through the storied Universal Studios back lot shortly after 9 p.m. when the crash occurred, according to authorities.

The linked tram cars passed by a set of props from the "Jurassic Park" film franchise when the tram driver turned onto Avenue M and for some unknown reason the last car in the procession collided with the metal guardrail on the right side, the CHP said. This caused the tram to "tilt and eject multiple passengers from the tram," authorities said in a news release.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department received a call for service shortly after 9 p.m. for the crash and 15 passengers were transported to a hospital with minor to moderate injuries.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department also responded to the scene but the CHP is the lead agency, a Universal Studios spokesperson said.

Read more: At least 14 hurt as MTA bus is part of four-vehicle 'rollover collision' in South L.A.

"Our thoughts continue to be with the guests who were involved, and we are thankful that based on agency reports, the injuries sustained were minor," Universal Studios said in a statement.

The theme park is working closely with authorities as Universal Studios continues its "review of the incident and safety remains a top priority."

The Studio Tour tram ride, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this week, will continue to operate with a modified route and the theme park will reinforce its "operational and safety protocols."

The status of the injured passengers was unclear as of Monday.

In many ways, the tram ride came to define the theme park.

Over the years, countless riders have enjoyed close encounters with a robotic shark depicting the blood-thirsty animal in the movie "Jaws," a terrifying stop outside the Bates Motel from the film classic "Psycho" and a harrowing escape from the clutches of King Kong.

Read more: Goofy is sued for negligence, inflicting trauma, in Disneyland collision

Newer film franchises have joined the tour, including a stroll through a suburban neighborhood wasted by aliens from the 2005 film "War of the Worlds" to a western-themed sideshow from Jordan Peele's 2022 movie "Nope."

The tram tour got its start in 1964 when Universal Studios executives noticed that food sales at the studio commissary shot up after local tour buses were allowed past the studio gates to let fans get a glimpse of the back lot movie sets and props.

The first iteration of the attraction were the pink-and-white Glamour Trams, which carried about 38,200 riders in the first year. Passengers paid $2.50 for a two-and-a-half hour tour that included stops to see a stunt show and a movie makeup exhibition.

Read more: How the Universal Studios tram tour defined the modern theme park

Later renamed the Universal Studios Studio Tour, the trams have since endured real life fires, labor strife, a series of expansions and at least one fatal accident.

The theme park launched a renovation project in 2022 to begin converting the diesel-hydraulic powered vehicles to run on electricity to reduce emissions. It is not clear if the tram that struck the guard rail was a newer electric vehicle or an older version.

This is not the first time an accident happened at the theme park. In 1986, a park employee was run over by the tram during a special Halloween "Fright Nights” show. Paul Rebalde, 20, was stationed on a parked tram filled with mannequins dressed to look like corpses, the Sheriff's Department said at the time.

While in costume, Rebalde was to leap from among the mannequins on the parked tram and frighten people passing on moving trams, but was trapped between the third and fourth sections of one of the four-section moving trams and was run over and dragged to his death, according to authorities. The Halloween-themed attraction was paused for several years and later rebranded "Halloween Horror Nights."

More recently, a stunt performer was hospitalized after performing in the "Waterworld" show in January 2023. The performer was set on fire shortly before taking a leap off a tower in the show's finale. The "Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular" show is inspired by the 1995 Kevin Costner film and opened months after the movie's debut.

Times editor Hugo Martin contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.