“Breaking News”… Today was not a good day to be a fish if your home was at the T-Rex Cafe in Downtown Disney. The aquarium ruptured around 4pm today, spilling out thousands of gallons of saltwater all over the restaurant.
A guest identified as “ZodIsGr8” on the forum WDWMagic.com stated, “I was at T-Rex this afternoon around 4pm when the aquarium to the right of the bar exploded. Two children were looking at the fish, but not touching the aquarium when it ruptured. I am not sure if anyone was hurt, but everyone in that section was completely soaked from head to toe. Then, the water started flowing into the ice room within a few seconds. Meals were being comped left and right. Management handled the situation very professionally, and dealt with customers in a timely manner. At one point there were 3 employees in the tank trying to save all of the fish.”
Kate Wallace, 28, of San Diego and her family were sitting about 20 feet from the tank when she heard “a big noise” as the water poured out in a stream. “There was a lot of commotion,” she said. “The whole section just sort of went crazy. The kitchen staff and other employees rushed over and tried to hustle nearby diners out of the area, but 10 or 15 people remained to snap pictures and video on their smartphones”.
Witnesses said employees scooped up the fish in a net as the water level dropped quickly and brought out trash cans and long-handled squeegees. Several of the patrons have praised the staff for their swift response.
Wallace continued, “The staff — they were doing the best job that they could,” she said. “It was craziness. Just kind of people freaking out. It's not something that you see very often. How do you respond to that?”
“My best friend works [at T-Rex Cafe], she helped save those fish and clean up the mess. She also noted the seal looking weird a week ago, and told the manager. The manager said to not worry about it. The guys on Tanked [a TV series starring Acrylic Tank Manufacturing] set up this tank. It was in one of their shows”, said Amber Burgess.
John Kaba stated, “Looks like it split at the seam. Same set up I had at the Rainforest Cafe (same parent company). That probably wasn't the only tank in the restaurant (there are usually a couple) but they're all plumbed together. It's pretty easy to shut one off from the system and throw the fish into other tank. Or shuttle fish to the Rainforest Cafes there in Downtown Disney or Animal Kingdom. And it's not a reef tank. It's a round concrete, resin, and rubber insert [fabricated by Poseidon Construction] around the central plumbing.”
We have been told that all fish from the incident have been rescued and are doing well.
We had the opportunity to speak with Luis Gil, President of Poseidon Construction. Poseidon did not fabricate or install the tank that ruptured, but did create the reef-like insert inside of it, and was able to provide us with some insight into why this incident may have occurred. “It's common practice at Landry's that they inform their staff not to clean the acrylic aquariums with window cleaner, as that can dry out the bonded seam, causing to break”, Luis said.
We retrieved information specific to acrylic tanks from our friends over at Reefs.com. The taller an aquarium is, the greater the stress that is imposed on the side walls — including any seams. If a seam was not thoroughly wiped down prior to the chemical welding process, or if an incorrect mix of the chemicals were used in the glue, results could prove disastrous.
A company by the name of Reynolds Polymer Technology, located in Colorado, has been making custom aquariums for companies, including all of Landry's displays, since 1987; they are certainly not new to the industry. Keep in mind, the aquarium that ruptured at the T-Rex Cafe had been installed since 2008. This is not the first time a seam on an acrylic tank, produced by Reynolds. You may recall in September of 2012, a large cylindrical aquarium at the Gulfstream Casino in Miami, Florida also sprung a leak, also produced by Reynolds, which was installed by Living Color Aquariums. Both the T-Rex Cafe, and the Gulfstream Casino aquariums were fabricated around the same time-frame, and both have experienced seam failure. Is it possible that the glue mixture or components for that period of time was defective? To date, Reynolds has completed over 1,600 projects in 53 countries.
Based on how long Reynolds has been in the business of constructing these acrylic mega-tanks, and the length of time these displays have been up for, should the focus truly be on worrying about when the next tank will rupture? You have a 50% better chance at catching a ball at a major league baseball game, than having a seam fail. We look forward to the replacement display to go in at the T-Rex Cafe at Downtown Disney.
A spokesperson for Landry stated, “A seal failed on the tank causing water to leak. Employees took action and did a great job rescuing all the marine life, caring for our guests and managing the situation.”
We reached out to Acrylic Tank Manufacturing and Reynolds Polymer Technology for an explanation as to why this happened. Keith David, Florida Sales Director for Acrylic Tank Manufacturing relayed to us that Brett and Wayde are currently out of the country, scheduled to return Wednesday. Reynolds has not yet responded to our inquiry.
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