We go to theme parks for the thrill and sense of adventure, but like a good horror movie we know it’s safe, right? The presence of G-forces only trick our brain into thinking we are in mortal danger but all those big machines have to be controlled by something and like most computers they can easily malfunction from time to time. Computer glitches can be seen by rides running without any passengers. The problems usually aren’t dangerous, but all safety precautions are taken into consideration. Sometimes accidents can be the result of oblivious employees or the choice to ignore the warning signs posted at each extreme ride. Heart attacks from people opting to take the risk of ignoring signs are the leading cause of death at amusement parks.
Although most amusement parks are a safe way to spend time with friends and family and being a little adventurous, sometimes accidents can and do happen. One of the most well known incidents was when a cable on the Six Flag’s ride Superman Tower of Power snapped and found its way around 13 year old Kaitlyn Lasitter’s neck and legs. She was luckily able to detach the cable from her neck which saved her life but once the ride dropped it snapped tight around her legs severing both of them. Surgeons later reattached her right foot. Here are 10 more fatalities that have happened at amusement parks; and just when you thought you were safe…
10. Kings Island: Mason, Ohio
On June 9, 1991 death was in the air at Kings Island, when multiple lethal accidents happened in a single day resulting in the death of three people. In the first incident, a man fell in a pond and a friend 20-year old William Haithcoat and a young park employee tried to retrieve him from the water. All three men in the water were zapped with an electric shock that proved fatal for the two rescuers. Only an hour later a 32-year old woman, Candy Taylor, fell from a popular ride called Flight Commander and died on impact. It’s no wonder many people going to the park think its haunted. An episode of Ghost Hunters was filmed after reports of witnessing a girl in a blue dress. The episode aired on SyFy channel in 2012.
9. Oakwood Theme Park: Pembrokeshire, Wales
Hayley Williams, 16 years old, visited Oakwood Theme Park with her family. They were riding the parks water roller coaster Hydro when she suddenly fell 100 feet from the ride. She later died in the hospital from internal injuries. Oakwood was fined $250,000 for negligence after it was discovered employees rarely opted to checking the restraint bar and seat belt on the Hydro ride. After the teens death, the ride was closed for a while before reopening under the name Drenched.
8. Action park: Vernon, New Jersey
Action Park has one of the worst reputations of any other in the world. The place was a disaster zone of drunken visitors, unsafe rides and uncaring teen employees. There’s no surprise many injuries occurred during the parks run. At least six people died, three drowned, one was electrocuted, and a heart attack claimed to have been caused by freezing cold water under a rope swing. One of the worst deaths happened when a car on the Alpine ride jumped from the slide causing a man to hit his head on a rock. The lawsuits continued to pile up and by 1998 Action Park was forced to close its doors. Later it reopened as a lesser version of itself under the new name Mountain Creek, with a new focus on safety and numerous signs and regulations. It effectively buried its more sinister past.
7. Discovery Cove: Orlando, Florida
Discovery Cove is a part of Sea World in Orlando Florida. It is designed to give guests a chance to interact personally with the marine animals. Guests snorkel with tropical fish and can get an up close experience with otters, dolphins and monkeys. For one man, 59-year old Keith Clarke, the day took a horrible turn for the worst when he cut his foot on a sharp piece of coral while swimming. Clarke suffered complications with the wound and collapsed three days later at the airport on his way home. Doctors back in England tried to save him but he was suffering from septic shock. The decision to amputate both his legs below the knee came too late and Clarke died of group B Strep which caused his organs to fail.
6. Coney Island: Brooklyn, New York
Coney Island lived its glory days prior to WWII and today is nothing but a glimpse of its former greatness. A few of the original rides still exist in the Brooklyn Park including a wooden roller coaster, The Cyclone. The bumpy ride was constructed in 1927 and has since entered the National Register of Historic Places. When it opened, the coaster cost a mere 25 cents a ride but today visitors should expect to pay $9 for a chance to ride an iconic coaster. The old style coaster has been tied to countless injuries and three fatalities since being built. The most recent was 53-year old Keith Shirasawa who broke his neck from the force of the first drop. The man was rushed to the hospital but died days later from surgical complications.
5. Gulliver’s World Theme Park: Warrington, England
In July 2002, a 15-year old girl with down syndrome fell 6 meters from the parks Ferris wheel, later dying from head trauma. The investigation after the incident discovered the girl wanted to ride with her mother but was told she was too big and had to ride in her own gondola, which she agreed to before riding. The girl and her mother both weren’t fluent enough in English to understand, and the girl died after sliding out of her seat while possibly attempting to reach her mother. The lap bar was locked in place at the time but the park was heavily fined for health and safety violations.
4. Six Flags Over Georgia: Atlanta, Georgia
In June 2008 Batman: The Ride took the life of 17-year old Asia Ferguson after he lost his hat while riding the coaster. Determined to retrieve it himself, he climbed over two fences ignoring the danger signs posted for his safety. The teen ended up directly in the path of the roller coaster as it was traveling at 80 km per hour, and was decapitated. Only six years earlier a similar incident happened when one of the parks groundskeepers ventured into the area and was struck in the head by someones leg suspended from the ride.
3. Battersea Fun Fair: London, England
In 1951, Battersea Park in London opened its new Fun Fair as a part of the festival of Britain. The biggest attraction was a wooden roller coaster named The Big Dipper. In 1972 the ride was the site of a major accident when one of the cars broke loose and rolled back into the station. Many people were injured and five children were killed in the accident. The deaths would eventually be the end of the Fun Fair but it managed to remain open for another two years.
2. Six Flags Great Adventure: Jackson, New Jersey
The Haunted House at Six Flags Great Adventure was identical to most all haunted houses. It was a quick walk through with dark spaces, fake fog and employees dressed as goblins jumped out to frighten jumpy teenagers. On May 11, 2004, people looking for a cheap thrill experienced true horror when the house burst into flames. Most of the visitors were able to make their way to safety and a few suffered from smoke inhalation but eight teenagers became trapped and died in the fire. Their bodies had to be identified with dental records because they were torched so severely. The park was sued because the haunted house lacked basic safety precautions including fire detectors and sprinklers but the park escaped lawsuits and fines because it was a temporary structure and the fire was proven to be the act of arson instead of negligence.
1. Six Flags Darien Lake: Darien, New York
In 2011, Iraq war veteran Sgt. James Hackemer died during a sad accident at Six Flags Darien Lake. Hackemer lost both his legs during a car bombing and was allowed to board the Ride of Steel roller coaster without prosthetics. He was ejected from the 208-foot ride, but its unclear at what point during the run. Its not known whether the employees put any thought to barring the vet from the ride due to his lack of limbs. Hackemer was with his family at the time, who claimed he was determined to ride every ride at the park and at the time of his death probably felt the most normal he ever felt in three and a half years.