Every summer millions of children, teenagers, and parents head to their local amusement park seeking a fun-filled day of thrills. Whether this means riding the tallest and most intimidating roller coaster, lounging in the water park, or whirling and spinning until you hurl, most amusement parks are packed full of rides for all ages, ready to take you on the ride of your lifetime.
People flock to these theme parks because they want to experience something extreme, but also something safe. Most people, especially younger people, don’t really consider how dangerous just being at an amusement park can actually be. Sure, they throw around statistics claiming that only one in 24 million people are at risk of being injured on a ride, while the odds are a staggering one in 750 million to be killed on a ride. Yet every season the reports come pouring in of people seriously injured or horrifically killed while enjoying a day at the amusement park.
Sometimes people are injured because they simply don’t follow the rules: Do not stand up. Keep your hands and arms inside the roller coaster at all times. You must be this tall to ride. There are rules at these parks for a reason, and when risk-takers decide to break them, they’re chances of becoming the one in 750 million goes up drastically. Yet even if you are following the rules and are just there to enjoy the rides, there is still a chance that the operator will make a fatal human error or, even worse, the ride itself will malfunction, quickly turning a massive steel roller coaster into someone’s cursed ride of death.
20. Fractured Skull on Cedar Creek Mine Ride
In 1984, at Cedar Point, a 5-year-old boy named Patrick Camp was riding the Cedar Creek Mine Ride with his father when he was suddenly thrown from the ride. The boy dropped over 30-feet to the ground and fractured his skull. He was air-lifted to a children’s hospital in Cleveland where he entered ICU. Officials at Cedar Point obviously closed the ride and began investigating what could have gone wrong and although there were lap bars in place and all safety precautions were allegedly taken, they later found out that Patrick was too short to be riding Cedar Creek Mine Ride altogether. However, prior to this accident the ride had no height restrictions and therefore Patrick and his family believed that they would be safe on the ride. This incident is just one of many that have happened at one of the Cedar Fair Amusement Parks across the US.
19. Brain Injury on Skyhawk
Also located in Cedar Point is the ride Skyhawk. It is a pneumatically powered pendulum ride technically classified as a “Screamin’ Swing.” Designed to have arms operating individually, this type of ride uses compressed air which in turn triggers the actuators and cables that put the ride in motion. Skyhawk is the world’s tallest “Screamin’ Swing” at 125-feet and moving as fast as 60mph. On July 28, 2014 one of the cables snapped and struck a mother and her daughter. The mother was taken to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. Directly following the accident, the ride was shut down for an investigation. The Cedar Points PR Manager Bryan Edwards made a statement that the woman who suffered head injuries was only taken to the hospital “as a precaution” and failed to mention the seriousness of the injury. The ride reopened on August 1, 2014.
18. Two Trains Collide on Willard’s Whizzer
On March 29, 1980 two trains collided on the ride Willard’s Whizzer at California’s Great America in Santa Clara (now Six Flags). The accident killed 13-year-old Kyle Foss and left eight other passengers seriously injured. The ride is designed for passengers to enjoy a seven-story free fall as the trains are sent down the track one after the other. An employee claimed that the “electric eyes” engineered to keep the trains separated had apparently failed and explained that “two systems had to break down for this to occur.” This led to one train slowing down and being struck by the train behind that was traveling approximately 50mph. Many passengers were thrown from the train, others managed to hold on. Kyle Foss was one of the passengers who was ejected from the train and landed fatally on the rocks below. Another report places Foss at the loading area and witnesses claim that he was actually run over by a fast-moving train. Upon an official investigation, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission laid serious charges on the park for failing to report previous defects regarding the breaking system of the ride. The Commission’s investigation also concluded that at least 11 incidents had gone unreported between 1976 and 1979. The park was ordered to pay only $70,000 in the civil penalty case.
17. Grandmother Killed on Joker’s Jukebox Ride
On July 10, 2003 at Six Flags New Orleans, a 52-year-old grandmother named Rosa Donaldson was helping her 4-year-old grandson into the Joker’s Jukebox ride when she was hit in the head by a moving car on the ride and then struck again by another. The ride is small but features spinning cars that move around on separate arms, and it was only after the ride attendant failed to see Donaldson near her grandson that he started the ride, sending a spinning car directly into the woman. She was taken to Lake Medical Center where she later died from internal injuries suffered from a crushed pelvis. It was later reported that she was on the inside of the ride’s barrier when the accident happened.
16. Feet cut off on The Superman Tower of Power
There was a horrific scene at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom in the summer of 2007 that left many people wondering if they would ever return to another amusement park. The accident occurred on “The Superman Tower of Power” which is essentially a free-fall thrill ride about 200-feet high. The ride was operating as normal until a cable snapped and gruesomely severed the legs of a 13-year-old named Kaitlyn Lasitter, cutting off her feet at the ankles. Four rides including the Superman ride were closed due to the horrific scene in the park. Lassiter was rushed to the hospital where doctors reattached her right foot. Unfortunately, her left foot was unable to be saved and was eventually amputated. Her family sued Six Flags as they were to blame for the ride malfunctioning, as well as a slow response time on behalf of the person operating the ride.
15. The Deadly Restricted Zone of the Batman Ride
In June 2008, 17-year-old Asia Leeshawn Ferguson was horrifically decapitated by the “Batman” ride at the amusement park Six Flags Over Georgia. The boy was not riding the Batman roller coaster at the time of his death; he was instead struck by the coaster after he entered the restricted zone of the ride. Officials claim that the boy jumped two separate safety fences in an attempt to find a lost hat when he was struck and killed. No one on the ride was physically injured. It seems that the restricted area of roller coasters are just as dangerous, if not more dangerous than the rides themselves. Prior to this fatal accident, a groundskeeper at Six Flags Over Georgia was also killed in the same restricted area of the Batman ride. 58-year-old Samuel Milton Guyton was struck and killed by the dangling leg of a passenger. Guyton had apparently wandered into the restricted zone accidentally. The ride was closed for a day and was officially reopened and announced to be safe for passengers.
14. Young Girl Killed in Go-Kart Crash
In Palatine, Illinois, a three-year-old tragically died after suffering injuries in a go-kart accident. The small child attended the Hi-Speed Race Karts race track with her family and was riding in a go-kart with her mother when the fatal accident occurred. It was reported that the girl was riding between her mothers legs at the time of the crash and this is what ultimately led to her death. Although the actual go-kart was in line with safety practices and regulations, the child should not have been in the go-cart in the first place. Rules and regulations of Hi-Speed Race Karts states that all riders must be at least 5-feet tall, all riders must sign a release, and only one rider be allowed in a co-kart at a time. The mother, Lindsay Kukich, explained to police that she received an OK from the go-kart operator to take the child on the ride. Kukich also added that her daughter had woken from her nap at about 10:30pm and would not remain with the babysitter. The girl was crushed between her mother and the steering wheel in the accident.
13. Boy Falls to his Death on the Space Invader
In July 2001, at Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach in Lancashire, England, an 11-year-old boy named Christopher Sharratt was killed after falling out of the “Space Invader” ride. The three boys had been at the park all day riding different rides and everything was normal until they went around a corner on Space Invader. A 15-year-old friend riding with Christopher reported seeing him begin to fall out of the ride even though the seat-belt was still fastened. Christopher fell onto another track on the ride and was fatally struck by more than one car. Even though the seat-belt failed to keep the boy safely in his seat, an investigation deemed that the death was accidental. A representative from the Health and Safety Executive suggested that Christopher did not remain seated correctly and this led to his ejection from the ride.
12. Death on Rocket Launcher Bungee Ride
In 1998, 21-year-old Jarome Charron attended the Central Canada Exhibition in Ottawa, Canada with the hopes of having a good time at the fair. When he was fastened securely into the harness on the “Rocket Launcher” ride, he probably didn’t think he was in any real danger. However, due to the owners negligence of the terrifying reverse-bungee ride, Charron was entering a ticking time bomb. After he was launched into the air, Charron’s harness disconnected and he fell over 100-feet to the ground below. In February 2000, a judge found the owner of the ride Anderson Ventures and the Delaware-based company guilty of violating the Ontario’s Amusement Devices Act. Although the ride had passed inspection, Ventures replaced the strap which connected the harness to the bungee cord with one half as thick as the regulated strap had been. In April 2000, Ventures was fined $145,000 for the violations connected to Charron’s death.
11. Deadly Fall from Raven roller coaster
On Saturday, May 31, 2003 tragedy struck at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari theme park in Santa Claus, Indiana after a woman fell to her death from a roller coaster. Tamar Fellner was riding the Raven roller coaster but fell out on the first and steepest hill after she allegedly stood up in her seat during the 69-foot drop. Witnesses claimed to have seen her trying to stand up while the car inched up the hill and when the empty car returned to the station her seat-belt was unfastened. An independent investigator as well as the formal park investigation concluded that Tamar standing on the ride was what allowed her to fall out. Fellner’s father filed a lawsuit against the park in 2005 claiming that she died due to negligence.
10. Cut in Half on The Texas Giant
Rosa Ayala-Goana Esparza was 52-years-old the day that she tragically died on the roller coaster called “The Texas Giant” at Six Flags. Esparza was at the amusement park with her family who witnessed the horrific accident. Her daughter as well as other riders witnessed Esparza being thrown from the coaster as it plummeted down the hill. It took firefighters nearly an hour to locate her body and it wasn’t until a helicopter flew over the huge wooden roller coaster that her body was discovered. Her body had connected with a tunnel attached to the ride and her body was described to be nearly in half. Witnesses reported seeing Esparza moving around in her seat and appeared not to be securely strapped into the ride. The family sued Six Flags for the coaster malfunction claiming that it was this that led to Esparza’s untimely death.
9. Major Malfunction on The Wildcat
On Sunday, April 20, 1997 at Bell’s Amusement Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma a 14-year-old boy was killed on the roller coaster The Wildcat. The tragic accident was caused when part of the roller coaster malfunctioned sending the car at the top of the hill plummeting backward toward another car set to go up behind it. The boy who was riding in the front car was thrown from the ride upon impact and reportedly hit a steel support beam and fell below the tracks. He died on the scene. Six others were taken to St. Francis Hospital and treated for serious injuries. The Wildcat roller coaster was built in 1974, but this was their first fatality at the amusement park. The Oklahoma Department of Labor inspected the ride only two weeks prior to the deadly accident. The park remained open following the horrific accident, park officials claiming they did not want to start a panic by announcing what had happened.
8. Boy jumps out of Loggers’ Run
On July 5, 1989, Michael Dorsey, a young boy of 9-years-old allegedly jumped out of the Loggers’ Run boat as it was going up the flume. An article in the LA Times states that the boy had traveled to the park with a church group and acted alone in the tragic accident. Witnesses claimed to see the boy exit the ride, which was done easily since there were no seat-belts or restraining devices at all on the ride. However, other accounts online claim that two boys jumped out of the log ride, but only Michael Dorsey was killed. The other boy apparently jumped to safety on an emergency platform. The 100-acre amusement park California’s Great America is located in Santa Clara, California. There have been other deadly accidents in the park since Michael’s tragedy in 1989, including the following accident that left a mentally disabled boy dead on scene.
7. Mentally Disabled Boy falls from Drop Tower
On August 23, 1999 a strange and terrifying incident occurred at Paramount’s Great America amusement park in Santa Clara. Joshua Smurphat was 12-years-old when he got in line for Drop Tower: Scream Zone, a 224-foot tower that promises a terrifying free-fall for all the thrill seekers at the park. However, once Joshua was fastened into the ride, things started to go bad. Witnesses stated that the boy began trying to slip out of the harness when they began their ascension up the tower, and once the ride dropped into free-fall, Joshua allegedly fell out. Park officials claim that there was no malfunction with the ride itself and the Great American spokesman Timothy Chanaud explained to the public that Joshua’s safety harness was locked for the duration of the ride. The boy suffered from “severe mental and physical handicaps” but that did not mean that he could not ride Drop Tower: Scream Zone.
6. Brain Aneurysm on the Dominator
Although most of these horrific amusement park accidents involve incidents where people are thrown unwilling from a passenger car, sometimes the person is still on the ride when it pulls back into the station. On July 20, 2012 a woman returned from the Dominator roller coaster at Kings Dominion unconscious. Witnesses claimed to have seen the woman have a seizure at the end of the ride. She was taken to Memorial Regional Medical Center where she died later that day. Following an autopsy report it was revealed that she suffered from a fatal brain aneurysm while on the ride. The Dominator was reopened the following Monday with no plans to have any changes made to the ride. Douglas Smith, an associate professor of neurosurgery explains that when the head moves that quickly on a roller coaster, the brain is also moving or “deforming” inside the skull, and if this occurs too quickly it is possible to suffer serious brain injuries.
5. Girl Dies on Timber Wolf
Over a decade ago, 14-year-old Ryan Bielby died on the Timber Wolf roller coaster in Kansas City. Ryan had gone to Worlds of Fun amusement park with a group of friends the day of the fatal accident in 1995. According to the friends who witnessed the traumatic experience, the story goes that Ryan’s lap bar malfunctioned during a sharp turn on the roller coaster and this caused her to be thrown from the ride. Park officials claim that the lap bar was securely fastened when the ride began and when it ended, thus Ryan Bielby could not have been killed due to a malfunction. The girl sitting next to Ryan claims that she held onto the lap bar as to not fall out herself and pulled it back down before the ride ended. The official investigation concluded that the park was not at fault. However, Ryan’s mother Leah Bergonozi believes to this day that the seat-belt failed on the ride and killed her daughter. The young girls death shocked the community as it was the first fatality to happen at the amusement park since it opened in 1973.
4. Black Sunday at Kings Island Amusement Park
June 9, 1991 was a grim night at Kings Island Amusement park in southern Ohio. After two unrelated accidents occurred on the park grounds, three people were dead. The first accident happened on the ride Flight Commander where a 32 year-old woman named Candy Taylor fell out of the ride after passing out and slipping through her restraints. The drop was over 60ft. She was taken to Miami Valley Hospital with did not survive. In another part of the amusement park near the German Beer Garden, an intoxicated man fell into a shallow pond, and when two men entered the water to assist him, they were electrocuted. William Haithcoat and Darrell Robertson were both 20 years-old when they died tragically in the water. Timothy Binning survived the electrical shock and recovered. Although the pond was roped off, there were no signs that the water itself was dangerous. In the end they found that the electric shock was caused by a fault on a pump under the water. The day is commonly known as Black Sunday in Ohio.
3. Iraq War Veteran Dies on Ride of Steel
Sergeant James Hackemer was 29-years-old when he died on the Ride of Steel at Darien Lake Theme Park in Syracuse, New York. Hackemer lost his legs in an IED attack while deployed in Iraq, and when he sat in the car of the steel roller coaster he was not wearing his prosthetic legs. It was discovered that Hackemer was not thrown out of the ride until the last hill, its peak reaching 208 feet. The family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Darien Lake after state officials announced that the park was to blame for Hackemer’s death since the ride did not clearly state that people without legs cannot ride the roller coaster. The final amount received remained confidential, though it was reported that the settlement was in the millions.
2. Mother and Daughter die on Wild Wonder
Kimberly Bailey and her daughter Jessica were enjoying a family outing at the New Jersey amusement park in Ocean City when tragedy struck. While riding the roller coaster Wild Wonder, the car climbing to the top of the first drop lost its traction and came hurtling backward. After the car hit a sharp turn, the mother and daughter were thrown violently out of the ride while witnesses watched in horror. Witness Tammy Matczak described seeing the two bodies fly into the air. “The woman slammed into a beam [and] the child just flew,” she explains. “I knew right away they had to be dead.” Investigators stated that the drag chain that pulls the car up the hill released prematurely. The emergency brake also failed. Both equipment malfunctions remain unexplained by park officials. Ms. Bailey and her daughter were taken to Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point where they were given an autopsy. Both of the women died from extensive blunt-trauma injuries.
1. Decapitation on the Verrückt Slide
On August 7, 2016, a horrific accident at Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City left the world stunned. When 10-year-old Caleb Schwab went down the extreme 168ft Verrückt slide (the tallest water slide in the world), he was ejected out of the raft and suffered fatal injuries to his neck. The two women who were riding the raft with Caleb (Hannah Barnes and Matraca Baetz) have been speaking out in the media about possible negligence by the workers at Schlitterbahn. Having witnessed the young boys death, the women claim that the ride decapitated him and he was dead by the time he got to the bottom of the slide. There is currently an investigation taking place as people have come forward claiming that there have been other close calls on the Verrückt slide in the past with safety straps coming loose and people nearly being thrown out. Questions remain unanswered surrounding the tragic death of Caleb Schwab and why more safety precautions weren’t taken to ensure that something like this did not happen and will not happen again. The Verrückt slide has since been closed and is not expected to reopen for the rest of the year.
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