From rogue roller coaster carts to park goers coming face-to-face with wild animals, you never know what will happen once you go in the gates of an amusement park.
Worst Case Scenarios
Theme park rides are intended to scare and entertain visitors, but sometimes things don’t happen the way they are supposed to, and a trip to the amusement park might just end up being your worst nightmare, manifested.
“Injuries that were not survivable”
One of the most recent tragedies to hit a theme park occurred at Dreamworld in Queensland Australia, that left four people dead and two children extremely traumatized. Visitors to the largest theme park in Australia were on the Thunder River Rapids Ride when the “flume” carriage they were riding flipped, causing the riders to fall on a conveyor belt where they were caught in the machinery in a grueling manner. Two children, ages 10 and 12 managed to escape the “flume” and were reported to be experiencing extreme emotional distress. Sadly, the mother of the ten-year-old was among those killed.
10-Year-Old Killed on World’s Biggest Waterslide
In another sad event, 10-year-old Caleb Schwab was decapitated in a water slide accident at Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City in 2016. The 168-foot water slide passed safety tests, but according to reports, the opening had been delayed several times in 2014 due to glitches. The boat the 10-year-old boy was on bounced around and he slipped out, falling between the slide and the netting. Co-owner of the park, and creator of the slide ride, Jeff Henry told USA Today, “It’s dangerous, but it’s a safe dangerous now. Schlitterbahn is a family water park, but this isn’t a family ride. It’s for thrill seekers of the world, people into extreme adventure.”
Three Year Old Survives Fall from Roller Coaster
Possibly the youngest child injured in a theme park accident is a three-year-old boy who was injured when he fell from a roller coaster in Pennsylvania in August 2016. The boy was riding with his seven-year-old brother when slipped out of the cart halfway through the ride at the SoakZone and Idlewild amusement park. The ride doesn’t have a seat-belt, making it easier for the smaller passengers to accidentally slip out. The boy was flown to the hospital via helicopter and treated for head and chest injuries.
Three Girls Fall From Ferris Wheel
Within the same month as the previous slide and the Dreamworld accidents, three more children were injured in an amusement park accident involving a Ferris wheel. Three young girls, ages 6, 10, and 16 were riding the Ferris wheel at the Greene County Fair in Greeneville, Tennessee when their basket flipped due to a mechanical error. Two were airlifted out while the third was rushed to the hospital via ambulance. Two of the girls seemed to be doing okay, while the third sadly suffered a head injury and was placed in intensive care with a breathing tube. Although an investigation was performed, no answers were given as to what specifically caused the accident.
Child Killed By Roller Coaster in Utah
In a tragic accident, a six-year-old boy was killed at Farmington amusement park in Utah. He was riding the children’s roller coaster, and after a few laps, it came to a stop. The boy, Ryan Beckstead, began to step out of the cart when the ride’s operator (an eighteen-year-old who was on the job for the first time that weekend) asked the kids if they wanted to go around again, and hit the button. The boy tried to get back in the cart but was thrown out and hit by the coaster as it came back around. Ryan’s father saw him fall and ran to grab him, but it was too late.
Man Killed by Coaster While Looking for Cell Phone
In a roller coaster accident involving different circumstances than the previous slide, a school teacher by the name of James A. Young was killed in Ohio when he was struck by a roller coaster. The man had just gotten off the Raptor roller coaster ride at Cedar Point amusement park when he hopped a fence and entered a restricted zone to search for his cell phone that had fallen out of his pocket during the ride. He was struck and killed by the 57 mph coaster as it came through.
Woman Dies On Derailed Roller Coaster
In 2007 a woman was killed and 19 passengers injured when the wheel axle of the roller coaster car broke and fell off. The broken axel caused the car to derail. The roller coaster ride named the Fujin Raijin II at Expoland is designed for passengers to remain standing. When the car derailed 19-year-old Yoshino Kogawara’s head hit the rail, killing her instantly. Traveling around 46 miles per hour at the time of the accident, the other 19 passengers were all injured and stuck in the car as rescuers hurried to help them get out. One onlooker, Nobuko Handa, told the Japan Times, “Just as I was thinking it might fall off, I heard a scraping sound followed by people screaming. It came to a halt at last after a sound that I can hardly describe in words. My legs trembled.”
Roller Coaster Cars Collide in England
In 2015 park visitors of the Alton Towers amusement park in England were horrified when two cars on a roller coaster ride collided. The ride had been stopped earlier in the day due to technical problems, before starting up again. The accident left passengers unconscious and bleeding as the cars collided and then stopped, leaving passengers stranded 25 feet off of the ground. Luckily one of the cars was empty, however, the car that collided with the empty car carried 16 people. Two girls and two boys were helicoptered to the nearby hospital with serious leg injuries. People looking on described the crash as shocking, with many people screaming and running over to the site of the accident. Luckily no one was killed.
Iraq War Veteran Killed by Roller Coaster
In 2011 Sergeant James Hackemer, was 29 years old and had already lived a hard life. While serving in Iraq, Hackemer was the victim of a roadside bomb that resulted in the loss of both of his legs. The Iraq war veteran was a double amputee but still sought to live life to its fullest. That’s what he was doing when he got on the roller coaster at an amusement park in Buffalo, New York. He had been told by staff that all of the rides would be safe for him to experience. However, the roller coaster named “Ride of Steel” secured passengers with a lap bar, that didn’t suit Hackemer’s disability, and he was ejected from the roller coaster, falling to his death.
Girl Loses Both Feet at Six Flags
13-year-old Kaitlyn Lassiter stood in line and got on the Superman Tower of Power at Six Flags in Kentucky with her two friends in 2007. The Tower is one of those terrifying rides that drop 325 feet from the air. As the ride was climbing, a cable broke and fell on Kaitlyn’s legs. Then, the ride dropped, severing both legs where the cable lay, just above her feet. The girls reported the ride shaking and jerking, and smelled smoke before it happened. The victim lost both of her feet.
Girl Attacked by Bengal Tiger at Discovery Kingdom
When taking your child to the amusement park, you certainly don’t expect them to be attacked by a tiger. But that’s exactly what happened in 1998 at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California. During a private photo session with the tiger, a young girl fell off the photo platform and landed on Kuma the tiger. The tiger freaked out and attacked the girl, while the trainer tried to rescue her, all the while being clawed.
Man Killed After Jokingly Rocking Gondola
The next time your friend starts rocking the Ferris wheel cart or another ride, relay this story. At Six Flags Magic Mountain, a couple was enjoying the Skybucket gondola ride when the husband began to jokingly rock their bucket. The bucket then disconnected from the cable and they crashed 50 feet down to the ground. The man was killed and his wife survived but was seriously injured.
Theme Park Worker Killed in Test Run in India
One worker was killed and nine were left injured during a test run of a giant wheel ride in India. 20 worker were seated on the giant wheel at Kishkinta theme park in Chennai when the oscillation of the cabins operated at a higher level due to a mechanical fault. The ride came crashing down. The worker, S Manikandan, was only 19-years-old and was leaving for the day when he was ushered in and asked to be a part of the trail run.
Action Park Most Deadly in Nation
Located in Vernon, New Jersey, Action Park was dubbed the most dangerous theme park in America after deaths and accidents scarred the park’s reputation. In 1984 a 20-year-old drowned in the Tidal Wave Pool, followed by a death of an 18-year-old three years later. A total of six deaths occurred at the park (one of the first to open in the nation) and patrons jokingly referred to it as “Accident Park” and “Class Action Park”. The poor safety record of the park caused it to close in 1996.
Deadly Day at Kings Island
In June of 1991 three people were killed at Kings Island amusement park in Ohio, in two separate incidents. A 32-year-old woman was killed when she was thrown from the Flight Commander ride, which had arms with passenger cars at the end of each. But the tragedy didn’t end there. Earlier that day, two men were killed when they were electrocuted in a pond while trying to save a man who had fallen in.
Teenager Decapitated at Six Flags
One thing to learn from these accidents is to never sneak past the gates to retrieve something you’ve dropped. That’s what happened to a 17-year-old boy in Georgia, who scaled two fences and snuck past multiple signs warning of danger to retrieve his hat that fell off while riding the Batman roller coaster at Six Flags. He was instantly killed when the roller coaster struck him going 50 mph.
Girl Falls to Her Death in New Jersey
At another Six Flags park, this time in New Jersey, a girl fell to her death while riding the loop-the-loop rollercoaster. Reports from the incident in 1987 said the girl was not properly strapped in and fell when the ride turned upside down.
Victims Lose Legs, Left Dangling Upside Down
In 2016 at Alton Towers in Staffordshire, UK a horrific roller coaster accident occurred that left many passengers with terrible injuries. It’s reported that the roller coaster crash is the equivalent of a car crashing at 90 mph. Winds were blowing 46 mph, and after a test run that alerted a security notice, ride operators chose to override the warning and send the park visitors on the next train. The roller coaster ended up crashing, severely injuring five passengers, including two who each lost a leg. The passengers were also left suspended upside down for hours before rescue workers could get to them.
Eight Teens Burned Beyond Recognition
The Haunted Castle was an attraction at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. In 1984 the castle caught fire, and quickly burned, designed with highly flammable materials. While dozens escaped, eight teenagers were burned to death. At first the park staff thought no one had died, because the bodies were burned beyond recognition, and thought to have possibly been mannequins.
Woman Loses Arm to Lion While Giving Her Family a Tour
At 21 years old a woman was just starting her career as a zookeeper at Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay. Her family visited her at the park in 2002 and she was giving them a private tour when she was attacked by one of the park’s lions. She lost her arm at the elbow.
Riders Given $442,000 for Demon Coaster Accident
Imagine hanging upside down for two hours straight. You can get a headache just thinking about it! That’s what happened to passengers of the Demon Roller Coaster at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois. It was 1998 when the ride was stopped and passengers were stuck suspended in the air, upside down while they waited for rescue workers. Luckily the park visitors were awarded $442K for the traumatic experience, and no one was injured.
Selfie Sticks Banned
After several incidents involving park goers losing their selfie sticks on rides, and causing them to shut down, selfie sticks are now banned at most every amusement park in the U.S. One incident involving with a rider losing a selfie stick on Disneyland’s California Screamin’ ride caused the ride to shut down and evacuate the riders. Six Flags also banned selfie sticks.
Worker Found Dead at Six Flags La Ronde
In July of 2012 a worker was found laying under the Le Vampire roller coaster. Upon closer inspection, the worker who found him discovered he was dead, and went into shock. The 67-year-old employee had suffered from head trauma, and although no one saw the incident occur, they concluded he was struck by the roller coaster.
Roller Coaster Riders Dehydrated and Severely Sun Burnt While Stranded
Riders of the Boomerang roller coaster in St. Louis, Missouri were stranded in the direct sunlight after the shuttle stopped on the incline. It was the hottest month of the year in 1999 when 28 passengers were stuck for several hours. They suffered severe dehydration and sunburn before being rescued.
Trainers Attacked by Cougars at Discovery Kingdom
When dealing with wild animals, you never know what’s going to happen. In 1996 at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California a trainer went into the cougar enclosure to take one of the big cats for a walk. The two cougars in the enclosure had been playing aggressively with each other when the trainer walked in. The cougars wanted the trainer to play too and began pawing at him and pinning him down, severely cutting his face and upper body. The other trainer entered the enclosure and suffered cuts while rescuing him.
Boat Didn’t Go So Gently Down the Stream
In summer of 2013 at Cedar Point guests were on the Shoot the Rapids water ride when there was a system malfunction. The boat was climbing up the ride’s lift hill when it lost traction and began to roll back down the track. The boat then flipped, injuring seven people, who were stranded in the water for several minutes before park staff was able to reach them. The ride was closed and opened a few times before closing permanently and dismantled in winter of 2015.
Electro Shock Death at Action Park
As mentioned earlier, Action Park didn’t have the best track record for safety. In one incident, in 1982, a 27-year-old man was on the Kayak Experience ride when his kayak tipped over. He was able to get out, but stepped on a grate and suffered severe electric shock. He went into cardiac arrest and was killed. The park was cleared of any wrong-doing but was shut down because the public was too scared to ride it.
The Alpine “Lose Your Skin” Slide
Another ride at Action Park in New Jersey that caused injuries was the Alpine Slide. It was known by park goers that if you fell off your sled (which was common) you would lose skin due to the fiberglass material the slide was made of. There were 26 head injuries and 14 fractures reported in the course of one year in the 1980s. The first death that occurred at Action Park was on this ride in 1980. A park worker was killed after a malfunction sent him falling off into an embankment where he struck his head on a rock.
Worker Killed by “Big Bad Wolf” Roller Coaster
You would think you wouldn’t have to worry about getting killed by the Big Bad Wolf, but this literally happened in 1993 at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. A worker was sent to fix a camera on the Big Bad Wolf roller coaster ride. Who knows why they sent him to perform the task while the roller coaster was still operating but he was struck in the head as the roller coaster came around and died.
Man Found Naked, Dead in Killer Whale Tank
Daniel Dukes, a 27-year-old man visited Sea World in Orlando, Florida, and stayed past the visiting hours. Reports say he snuck over to the Orca Tank illegally that night. The following morning he was found in the tank, dead and naked, draped over the back of the killer whale. His body was covered in bruises, his scrotum was ripped open, and pieces of his body were found that sunk to the bottom of the pool.
265 Foot VertiGo Tower Collapses for Unknown Reason
Some people need a little convincing to ride the more extreme attractions at theme parks. But how bad would you feel if you talked your buddy into trying The VertiGo, only to have the ride break while you’re up 300 feet in the air, climbing at a rate of 50 mph? That’s what could have happened at Cedar Point. One of the three 265 foot towers that made up the ride mysteriously collapsed in January of 2002. Luckily, the park was closed for winter, and no one was injured. Park staff decided to demolish the ride later that year for safety.
What They’re Not Telling You Might Kill You
Eleven incidents went unreported on the Willard’s Whizzer attraction at California’s Great America theme park before a 13-year-old boy was killed by the ride. Two trains on the speed racer roller coaster collided in 1980. The accident injured eight passengers and killed a boy. It was then discovered by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that there was a braking system malfunction that the park knew about, but let the ride continue to run anyway. Marriott Corporation paid $70,000 in the civil penalty action that followed.
Park Employee Killed by Lightning Strike at the Top of Water Slide
A lightning storm began moving through Tampa Bay, Florida in 2011, and a 21-year-old park worker began moving guests out of the Key West Rapids Ride at Adventure Island. He was standing at the top of the water slide in three feet of water when lightning struck and killed him. It was the day after his 21st birthday.
Before There Were Height Requirements
Everyone has the memory of walking up to the sign that says you must be this tall to ride this ride. You walk up and stand with your back turned, and your mom levels her finger to the height of the chart and tells you, “Yay! You’re tall enough!” Before May of 1984 there were no height requirements at Cedar Point. That is until a five-year-old boy fell from the front seat of the train during the ride’s 30-foot drop. He slipped out of the seat because he was too short for the lap bar to be effective. The boy lived, suffering a fractured skull. The 48-inch height restriction was put in place after the incident.
Pluto Killed by Disney Float
In 2004 the afternoon parade was in full swing at Disney’s Frontierland. Javier Cruz, dressed as Pluto the dog, was walking in the parade when the foot of his costume was caught and caused him to trip. He wasn’t able to get up in time, before the Beauty and the Beast float behind him ran him over. Cruz was killed instantly, causing OSHA to find Disney $6,500.
A Deadly Year at Disney
1989 was not a good year for the park staff at Disney World. Four performers were injured within the course of a year while performing Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! In one incident a prop ladder collapsed and the performer fell 25 feet. Another performer fell 30 feet when the restraining cable failed, and a third was pinned down by a trap door the was malfunctioning.
20 Years Later, More Performers Killed
A decade after the deaths at Disney World, the curse seemed to come back, as three more Disney workers were killed on the job in 2009. The first death occurred when a monorail train collided with another train, killing the driver. Soon after, a 47-year-old performer in Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial died from a head injury he sustained while sword-fighting. The last performer was killed in the same show as the last slide, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! A spokesperson for Disney said they were “freak accidents” and unrelated.
Man Thrown From Superman Ride of Steel
Another ride that was Superman themed at Six Flags New England killed one man in 2004. The 55-year-old man was on the Superman Ride of Steel roller coaster when his restraint somehow broke, causing him to be thrown from the train as it was traveling 80 mph. The man was pronounced dead at the scene, killed from severe trauma. “All of a sudden people started screaming, `Stop the ride, stop the ride, someone has fallen off,’ ” a bystander told WHDH-TV in Boston. “They finally stopped the ride, and it was extreme panic, and we looked, and all the people in the cars were crying . . . and we looked over to the side, and there was a gentleman laying by the fence.”
Boy Killed by Alligator at Disney World Hotel
This story made national news when a two-year-old boy was snatched and killed by an alligator while his family was staying at Disney World Hotel. One summer night in 2016 the Graves family was sitting on a beach at the hotel, watching a movie. The boy wandered over to the water’s edge at the Seven Seas Lagoon, where he was taken by an alligator. Two people reported seeing the alligator before the attack, including a man who saw the alligator from his balcony only an hour earlier. He saw the boy standing in the lagoon and headed to the door to warn the parents, but it was too late — he could hear the mother screaming already.
30 Injured, 1 Dead at Waterworld
A high school seniors celebration in Northern California turned deadly when a water slide collapsed at Waterworld. A large group of girls gathered at the top of the slide and tried to go down together, but the slide collapsed under the weight. A 17-year-old girl was crushed and killed. 30 others were injured, as the slide came crashing down and the pool below filled with blood.