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Deborah Gail Stone (June 18, 1956 – July 8, 1974) was an employee at Disneyland who died at America Sings.
Deborah Gail Stone was born to Bill and Marilyn Stone on June 18, 1956. She was the eldest of five children and the only daughter of Bill and Marilyn Stone. During her early years she was very outgoing; on a regular basis, she would bring her friends and other neighborhood children back to her house, asking her parents to give them cookies. As she got older, Ms. Stone became athletic, excelling mainly in track and swimming; she was also a member of her high school's yearbook staff and participated in several extracurricular school activities. Ms. Stone graduated from Santa Ana High School in 1974 in the top 10 percentile of her class, for which she received the S.A.H.S. Principal's Award for outstanding ability and achievement. Her plan was to attend college in the fall, having been accepted into and enrolled at Iowa State University. However, the cost of college attendance was financially taxing on her and her family, so Ms. Stone applied for a hostess job at Disneyland in Anaheim, California in order to earn money to defray her college tuition costs. Ms. Stone had apparently wanted to work at Disneyland for some time, and her mother thought working at the theme park would be a good summer job; in the early summer, Ms. Stone received a call from Disneyland offering her the job.
Disneyland time 1974
Stone began working at Disneyland around the same time as the opening of America Sings, a new Disneyland attraction in celebration of the bicentennial of the United States of America. Her primary duties as hostess of the America Sings ride was to help guests with seating, greet them at the start of the performance, and bid them goodbye at its end.
Death and aftermath
On the night of July 8, 1974, Stone was killed in an accident involving the America Sings attraction. Earlier that evening, Stone had called her parents to inform them that she had become engaged that very same day, asking for their blessing on her soon-to-be marriage. Her parents gave their blessing to the engagement and Stone worked her nightly shift without any intervening difficulties. At the very end of her shift, around 10:35-10:40 p.m. when the last performance of the ride had finished, Stone was crushed between a rotating wall and a stationary stage wall on the America Sings ride; she died 20 minutes later. It is still unclear if she had fallen in between two walls, had stepped backwards into the walls, or had tried to jump from one stage to another. Stone had worked for a little over one month as a Disneyland employee at the time of her death.
The aftermath of Stone's death produced positive changes to employee safety at Disneyland and its other parks. At the America Sings attraction, there had been no safety equipment to protect employees from accidents such that befell Stone. Bill and Marilyn Stone filed a suit against Disneyland in order to ensure that safety measures were put in place to protect other employees. The suit was settled out of court a few months later for a small sum of money, but the Stones had successfully achieved the desired safety measures and changes to the ride. Because of Deborah Stone's death, Disneyland installed a safety light on the America Sings ride that activated when an individual got too close to the danger area, and the solid walls were replaced with break-away walls. The ride closed for at least two days while technicians installed the safety light and break-away walls, and the stage on which Ms. Stone died was closed for a year. In addition to these safety improvements to the America Sings ride, Disneyland also addressed any other safety issues they found with other rides at the park. The suit between the Stones and Disneyland did not meet with acrimony on the part of the Walt Disney Corporation; instead, Disney remained in constant communication with the Stones during this time, offering them sympathy, compassion, and kindness. After the suit was entered into court, the Stones received several positive and attentive calls and letters from various Disney administrators. Deborah Stone's brief-but-amicable influence while working as a Disney employee was so far reaching that the Stones even received a personal visit from one of the park employees and, twenty years later, flowers from another Disney employee at Christmastime.
Within Ms. Stone's own childhood community, the impact she made on those who knew her was palpably evident immediately after her death. In the fall of 1974, the school board of Santa Ana High School contacted the Stones to inform them that a new pool which the school had recently built was being renamed in honor of their daughter, partly to recognize her swimming accomplishments. Further, several fellow students of Ms. Stone's graduating class and friends from younger classes in the high school created the Deborah Stone Award to monetarily recognize students for excellence in academics, athletics, and community service. Funding for the award lasted more than 25 years and the requirements for receiving the reward were high, due to the very active and socially conscious example which Deborah Stone set for prospective recipients. Today, the Santa Ana High School Pool that was renamed in her honor still bears a plaque in memoriam of Deborah Stone. Ms. Stone is remembered by her family, friends, and those with whom she came in contact as a gregarious and positive influence, as well as a positive example of social activity and community concern for others. Because of her untimely and tragic death, Ms. Stone served as a historical catalyst for the improvement of safety measures in Disney theme parks, and her unfortunate accident most likely helped to improve general theme park safety measures and practices across the board.
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