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Worst Amusement Park Accidents Ever (content warning)


With the recent accidents at the CNE, and my kids begging me to take them, I did some of my own independent research on the history of amusement park accidents. What I discovered was horrifying!

(Content Warning: Article may upset, offend, or distress some people)

Icon Park

In March of 2022, Icon Park, situated just a stone’s throw away from Universal Orlando Resort and Disney World, faced the most significant accident in its history.

A horrible incident unfolded involving a 14-year-old boy who had joined his friends on the Orlando FreeFall, an extraordinary drop tower-type ride known for launching guests high above Orlando before swiftly bringing them back down. Regrettably, due to a locking malfunction that authorities are still investigating, the boy fell from his seat.

At the time of the incident, Orlando FreeFall was acclaimed as the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower. The heartbreaking news of the young boy’s demise prompted another theme park elsewhere in the country to reevaluate and enhance their safety protocols for similar attractions.

Extreme World

During the summer of 2010, another unfortunate incident unfolded at an amusement park, this time at Extreme World situated in Wisconsin Dells.

A 12-year-old girl displayed her courage by taking a ride on Terminal Velocity, an attraction that plunges guests over 100 feet into a net without the use of safety harnesses.

On that fateful summer day, as she embraced the daring experience, her life took an irreversible turn. The operator responsible for the netting failed to position it adequately to catch and secure her as she descended.

Tragically, she landed directly onto the concrete surface, resulting in severe injuries including a broken back and pelvis. She was quickly transported to the hospital, where she miraculously survived despite sustaining multiple other serious injuries.

Following a lawsuit filed by her parents, the park was eventually sold, and the operator faced charges of negligence. Interestingly, the park has now changed hands and is set to reopen under a different theme.

Bobsled Cars

On January 3, 1984, a disturbing incident unfolded when a 48-year-old woman was thrown from one of the bobsled cars at an amusement park, resulting in a deeply unfortunate outcome. Shockingly, she was struck by the following bobsled, leading to immediate decapitation. This grim event wasn’t isolated, as two decades earlier, at the same amusement park and on the same ride, another fatal incident occurred involving a 15-year-old boy from Maples of Long Beach.

Though piecing together the exact details can be challenging, reports from his companions and officials indicate that the boy stood up during the ride’s jolts, resulting in a forceful impact that propelled him out of the bobsled.

The boy was found unconscious by paramedics upon their arrival. Swiftly transported to the hospital and connected to a ventilator, his condition remained critical. Unfortunately, after four days of battling, he succumbed to his injuries and passed away.

A bobsled roller coaster is a roller coaster that uses a track design that is essentially a “pipe” with the top half removed and has cars that are sent down this pipe in a freewheeling mode.

The Sand Blaster

On June 14, 2018, the Sand Blaster ride which was located in Daytona Beach, FL. derailed, causing two riders to plummet 34 feet to the ground, while another two riders found themselves suspended in a different car. Out of the total of 10 passengers, six were subsequently taken to the hospital. For the individuals who fell, two trauma alerts were issued due to the potential seriousness of their injuries. Firefighters worked to rescue the stranded patrons from the derailed coaster.

Jennifer Meale, a spokesperson, addressed the media concerning the unfortunate occurrence:

“First and foremost, our primary concern is for the well-being and recovery of the individuals who were injured last night. Their health is our top priority. Those responsible for any negligence will be held accountable.”

Meale went on to reveal that the ride had encountered issues during two inspections in May, although these concerns were rectified prior to the incident. Interestingly, the ride had undergone testing on the morning of the accident and had successfully passed the subsequent inspection.

Superman tower of Power, Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, Loadmaster (David R. Tribble) This image was made by Loadmaster (David R. Tribble)


The Superman Tower of Power

In June 2007, a young girl embarked on a trip to Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, accompanied by friends who were eager to experience the thrill of the Superman Tower of Power ride. Riders sit in one of four seats in several cars attached to the tower. They are quickly taken 177 feet (54 m) in the air, held at the top for several seconds, and then dropped around 154 feet (47 m) at speeds of 54 mph (87 km/h), before being stopped just 23 feet (7.0 m) from the ground by magnetic brakes. However on this day, things took a horrific turn as the ride ascended. Before reaching the peak, a chilling sound echoed—a cable snapped, instantly drawing their attention. To their shock, cables began to unravel from various parts of the ride, lashing around and striking their faces and legs. This terrifying incident occurred only 20 feet above the ground.

As the ride continued to climb, their distress intensified. A disconcerting sight met their eyes—black smoke and the pungent odour of burnt rubber filled the air. The girls, gripped by fear, collectively cried out, repeatedly pleading for the ride to halt. Yet, they found themselves surrounded by dangling cables, some even encircling their necks.

Upon finally reaching the ground, a disturbing discovery awaited them. One of the girls caught a whiff of an agonizing scent—burning flesh. It was an agonizing realization: her feet had been severed. Medical intervention managed to reattach her right foot, although the left leg had to be amputated.

The Wildcat

April 20, 1997, at Bell’s Amusement Park located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was teeming with visitors drawn by a special promotion offering rides at the cost of just 25 cents each. Among the sought-after attractions was the Wildcat, a ride that had been testing the nerves of Tulsans since its debut in 1974. As the car of one such ride reached the pinnacle of its highest hill, an unexpected halt occurred. Shockingly, a safety mechanism designed to prevent backward motion failed to function, resulting in the car sliding back down the track, a descent spanning 45 feet (13.7 meters). The car collided with another, leading to the ejection of a 14-year-old boy who, devastatingly, lost his life. Additionally, six other individuals suffered injuries as a result of the incident.

Fujin Raijin II roller coaster at Expoland

On May 5, 2007, while Japan celebrated Children’s Day, a sombre atmosphere prevailed due to an unfortunate incident that resulted in one fatality and 19 injuries in Osaka. The tragic event took place on the Fujin Raijin II roller coaster at Expoland, an amusement park initially constructed for the International Exposition in 1970. Notably, this roller coaster required riders to maintain a standing posture throughout the 0.65-mile (1,050-meter) track, with the six-car trains attaining speeds of up to 47 miles per hour (75 kilometers per hour)

At first, everything appeared ordinary as 20 passengers embarked on the Fujin Raijin II during the early afternoon. The roller coaster was well into its course when, unexpectedly, the second car derailed and sharply tilted to the left, perilously close to the guardrail. Within seconds, a young woman was fatally struck on the head by the guardrail as the coaster careened along the tracks. Despite the coaster continuing its journey with an unsettling scraping noise, it eventually came to a halt after covering a distance of 328 yards (300 metres).

Expoland’s operator attributed the accident to a fractured wheel axle. This issue might have been identified during the ride’s annual maintenance, but regrettably, the necessary repairs were not undertaken in 2007. The park cited inadequate workspace as the reason for not dismantling and inspecting the cars. Expoland’s operations ceased in 2009, burdened with a debt of 1.6 billion yen, largely stemming from a decline in ticket sales following the roller coaster tragedy

The Derby Racer Roller Coaster

The Derby Racer roller coaster at Revere Beach, Massachusetts, had an enticing concept: two trains racing down parallel tracks, competing towards a finish line at the ride’s base. This picturesque scene included teenagers who would scream, jeer, and playfully tease each other as one car surged ahead, only to be overtaken by the other. This lively atmosphere of excitement and friendly rivalry, however, was marred by a dismal safety record that often transformed amusement into hell!

The roller coaster’s unfortunate trajectory began in June 1911, when the treasurer of the roller coaster company met a tragic end. Ironically, he suffered fatal injuries while attempting to stand up and lecture fellow passengers about safety. This accident marked the coaster’s second fatality of the year and prompted local authorities to revoke its license temporarily. The park had to install brakes and safety restraints in the passenger cars before it could resume operation. Despite these measures, the safety restraints didn’t seem to offer sufficient protection. In 1917, a man lost his hat while the train ascended a steep incline. His attempt to retrieve the hat led to a fall from his car, and he landed on the adjacent track where he was struck by an oncoming train and dragged for a distance of 35 feet (10.7 meters). The newspaper reported his death, noting that nearly every bone in his body was broken during the accident.

In 1936, the Derby Racer was ultimately demolished, although its notoriety doesn’t appear to be the main reason behind this decision. Its successor was simply introduced as “the new Derby Racer.”

Rough Riders

In today’s context, the name “Rough Riders” might not sound particularly enticing for a roller coaster. However, back in 1915, the memories of the Spanish-American War and Theodore Roosevelt’s renowned “Rough Riders” cavalry regiment were still fresh, which likely contributed to its appeal. Nonetheless, the allure vanished on July 27 of that very year when a awful accident occurred, resulting in the loss of three riders’ lives and injuring several others

The Rough Riders roller coaster, initially named “Drop the Dip,” was situated in Coney Island, New York. Functioning akin to a modern subway, each train had a driver and an electric motor powered by a third rail, propelling riders over hills and around bends.

On that ill-fated summer day, a group of six individuals embarked on the ride. As they leisurely passed through an exhibit recalling scenes from the war, anticipation and excitement mounted. Abruptly, the train surged forward. A gathering crowd observed as it sped down a decline and approached a sharp turn. Tragedy struck as the wheels disengaged from the track, causing the car to tip onto its side and catapulting the driver and four passengers into a fragile iron railing positioned 30 feet (9.1 meters) above the ground. Regrettably, three individuals plummeted to their deaths. Meanwhile, a woman and her 4-year-old son clung to the damaged car’s handrail until police managed to rescue them. In addition, a bystander sustained injuries when the driver’s body struck her while she was watching from below.

Eyewitnesses asserted that excessive speed upon entering the turn caused the accident. However, jurors ultimately acquitted the ride’s manager of homicide charges, determining that the tragic incident was “unavoidable.”

The Mindbender

The 1986 Mindbender was a large indoor triple-loop coaster, featuring steel construction and a four-car train. It was the main attraction of Fantasyland, a popular amusement park in West Edmonton Mall..

It was June 14, 1986, just one day after an Alberta province safety inspector declared the ride safe. The train slid around a turn at 60 miles per hour (96.5 kilometres per hour), gaining momentum for the first of the three loops. However, before it got there, the rear car began to fishtail. It proceeded through the first two loops but derailed as it approached the third loop, stalling at the top and sliding backward into a concrete column. Three riders died and at least 15 were injured, one seriously. Investigators determined that missing bolts in a wheel assembly caused the accident. The ride was closed for several months while the operators made safety improvements, including the installation of anti-rollback mechanisms, seatbelts and headrests. Additionally, the number of seats per car was reduced from 16 to 12, and the number of cars in the train was reduced from four to three. Since then, the Mindbender has closed.

The Big Dipper

In 1930, a significant event unfolded at Krug Park in Omaha, Nebraska, involving the Big Dipper roller coaster. While the park’s owner, local beer magnate Frederick Krug, lent his name to the establishment, no alcohol played a role when disaster struck on July 24. Instead, a mechanical failure marked the catalyst for the most fatal roller coaster accident in the history of the United States.

As the four-car train departed the boarding area, it was heavily loaded and ascended the initial incline. Investigators concluded that a component of the brake system came loose and became jammed in the wheels of one car. Subsequently, that car derailed, breaking through a guardrail before plunging 35 feet (10.7 meters) to the ground below. Meanwhile, the coaster’s lift chain continued its operation, propelling the other three cars over the edge alongside the first one. This calamitous event trapped numerous individuals beneath the runaway train, resulting in the tragic demise of four and injuring 19 others.

Following the disaster, the park’s business dwindled, eventually leading to Krug Park’s closure by 1940. However, in 1945, concerned citizens rallied to raise funds, enabling them to purchase the land and reopen it as a city park in 1955. Now known as Gallagher Park, the site offers amenities such as a swimming pool and baseball field, but roller coasters are notably absent.

Big Dipper Part 2

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in 1972, Battersea Park in London, England, became the setting for what is widely regarded as the most catastrophic roller coaster disaster in history. The ill-fated ride was none other than The Big Dipper, a three-car wooden roller coaster constructed in 1951 as the centerpiece of the park’s new Fun Fair. Its popularity rivaled that of contemporary iconic attractions like the London Eye.

From its inception, The Big Dipper encountered issues. In May 1951, an unoccupied car derailed, knocking down a protective railing and leaving passengers stranded in the remaining cars. Tragedy struck once again in 1968, causing a woman to sustain a broken arm due to another collision.

The most harrowing accident, however, unfolded in the late afternoon of May 30, 1972. With 31 passengers on board, the lift chain released prematurely at the top of the initial incline, resulting in the cars hurtling backward down the slope and into a turn. The train derailed, leading to the heartbreaking loss of five children’s lives and injuring 13 others.

In the aftermath of this tragic event, charges of manslaughter were filed against the park manager and the roller coaster’s engineer. Despite the trial, both individuals were acquitted. Nevertheless, this accident marked the turning point for both the coaster and the park. The Big Dipper was shut down and subsequently demolished, while the Fun Fair closed its doors in 1974.

In conclusion, I’m never taking the kids to an amusement park again!

by Myles Shane

Other articles from totimes.ca – otttimes.ca – mtltimes.ca

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