The iceberg wall is meant to mimic the one the Titanic hit in 1912, triggering a devastating sinking that killed 1,500.
Visitors to the Titanic Museum Attraction in Tennessee may have hoped to visit the historic catastrophe at a safe distance. But they got frightfully close to the real disaster when the museum’s iceberg wall suddenly collapsed this week.
“Our iceberg wall collapsed and injured three guests, who were taken to the hospital,” the Titanic Museum Attraction, based in Pigeon Forge, announced on social media. The iceberg wall stands at 15 feet by 28 feet and is fed through a water filtration system.
“At this time, we do not know the extent of their injuries, and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with all who were affected, including the first-responders.”
The Pigeon Forge fire department arrived at the museum around 8:11 p.m. on Aug. 2 and quickly triaged the scene. One museum guest was airlifted to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville; two others were taken by ambulance to LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville.
Firefighters praised museum officials for quickly evacuating museum guests, but admit that they weren’t sure why the wall suddenly collapsed.
“Needless to say, we never would have expected an incident like this to occur as the safety of our guests and crew members are always top of mind,” the museum owners wrote on Facebook.
“We take pride in the quality of our maintenance and have measures in place to ensure that appropriate safety guidelines are upheld.”
The Titanic Museum Attraction, which opened in Pigeon Forge in 2010, has a number of interactive Titanic experiences. Alongside the iceberg wall, guests can plunge their hands into 28-degree water (the temperature of the ocean as the ship sank), walk through replicated rooms, and explore 400 real-life Titanic artifacts.
Museum guests even get a “boarding pass” with the name of a Titanic passenger or crew member.
The museum seeks to replicate the experience people had when they first boarded the real Titanic, in April 1912. The ship infamously struck an iceberg on April 14 and sank into the North Atlantic Ocean in the early morning of April 15 while on its maiden voyage.
Around 1,500 people died during the sinking, including 832 passengers and 685 crew. Many perished in the icy water, and others died due to a lack of lifeboats on board.
Given the Titanic iceberg’s infamy, the tragic irony of the iceberg wall collapse did not escape commentators on Facebook.
“Sorry this happened but … slightly ironic the iceberg was the culprit again,” one commenter wrote.
Though the Titanic Museum Attraction closed after the accident, it reopened just one day later. However, the museum owners said that it’ll take a little while for them to rebuild the iceberg wall.
“The iceberg wall does not currently exist, and the affected area has been blocked off, for the time being,” they explained. “We anticipate it will take at least four weeks for the iceberg to rebuild,”
Visitors, undeterred, lined up outside to visit the exhibits as soon as the museum reopened.
“You know, stuff happens, there’s a million little things that could have happened,” said museum visitor Jon Nijem, who’d come to the museum with his son. “It didn’t deter us from coming.”
Other guests felt rattled by the iceberg wall collapse.
“We were supposed to go in yesterday, but we had to buy our tickets for today,” said Carrie Pittore, who came to visit the museum from North Carolina with her family. “What if that was us?”
When it comes to the future of the iceberg wall, Pittore thinks that the museum should consider something less — well — titanic.
“If they do rebuild it, it would be nice to maybe have a smaller piece of the ice,” she said. “Just maybe something smaller that everyone can touch without having to worry about it falling or hurting somebody.”