The first day of summer is less than a month away, and people all over the world are planning out their vacations. They’re going on road trips, staying at luxury resorts, saving up to gamble their savings away in Vegas, and impatiently waiting on the day that they spend countless hours at an amusement park getting all their thrills. Some say that everyone needs to experience a roller coaster — or, at the very least, visit a theme park — at least once in their lives. Most visitors who go to places like Disneyland or Six Flags Magic Mountain leave with deflated wallets and lifelong memories, but some people don’t make it out alive.
We’re led to believe that we’re safe when we strap ourselves onto rides or walk around these parks because multi-million or even billion dollar corporations can’t risk killing someone, but that just isn’t so. It doesn’t happen too often, but every year, these companies dish out thousands, and sometimes millions of dollars to guests who are involved in tragic accidents. Earlier this month, an 11-year-old girl lost her life on a water ride at a theme park in the U.K., and it goes to show you that as far as we’ve come with technology, we still can’t perfect safety. Before you jump on that coaster that does a double loop at high speeds both backward and forward, make sure you’re locked in your seat tight or you may end up decapitated. Yeah, that really happened.
15. Two Children Watch Their Parents Get Crushed To Death In Australia
Attractions run constantly for most of the day, some for 365 days out of the year. To think that they would never malfunction is wishful thinking, and when it does happen, those behind the controls hope no lives would be put at risk. When there was a hiccup with the Thunder River Rapids Ride at Dreamworld in Australia, no one expected that four people would die. Circular rafts carrying up to six guests at a time splish-splashed their way through a fake rapids ride, and it was all fun and games until one fateful day in October 2016. An unoccupied raft was stuck at the bottom of the conveyor belt where the boarding area was. Following it was a full raft of six visitors that ran into it, causing the second raft to bounce backward into the descending conveyor belt and was flipped over, causing some of the people onboard to be caught in the machinery underneath. A 10-year-old boy managed to escape, but not before watching his mother die, as did a 12-year-old girl. The children were the only survivors.
14. 10-Year-Old Boy Decapitated On Water Slide
Standing at 168 feet, the Verruckt water slide at the Schlitterbahn Kansas City water park was the tallest of its kind in the world. Kansas state representative Scott Schwab’s son, 10-year-old Caleb Schwab, thought he would brave the popular slide whose name is “Insane” in German. Caleb and two women were secured in their raft; he was in the front while the others sat behind him. One woman weighed 275 pounds and the other 197. As they made their way down the slide, the raft began to go airborne and hit the metal beams. The women suffered broken bones in their faces while young Caleb was decapitated as his parents and brother watched in horror. Investigators determined that the weight on the raft was unevenly distributed and that Caleb should have been seated in the middle. Although the park reopened three days later, the Verruckt water slide remains shut down.
13. He Climbed Two Fences Trying To Get His Cell Phone
Thousands of items are lost on roller coasters every year after they fly off the heads and out of the hands, pockets, and purses of riders. Dozens of feet below on the ground lay hats, glasses, wallets, and cell phones that have been thrown hastily from speeding coasters. People who lose things sometimes wait until closing when items are collected by custodians, but 45-year-old James Young didn’t feel like lounging around when he lost his cell phone while riding the Raptor at Cedar Point park in Ohio. To retrieve his mobile, he climbed two fences, one four-feet high and the other between five and six feet. Despite the warning signs, James was determined to get his phone. He was ultimately hit by an oncoming train. His family will only let James share half of the fault of his death, saying that the park should make the fences higher so people can’t get over them. Cedar Point has no plans to change the warning signs or the height of their restricted area fences.
12. Zhaohua Amusement Park in Chongqing, South West China
You stand in line for a thrill ride and finally get your turn. You find your seat, strap yourself into your seatbelt, and an attendant comes by to make sure it’s securely fastened. It is. Well, it is until the ride gets high up in the air and your seatbelt malfunctions and sends you spinning around like a rag doll. That’s what happened to a 14-year-old girl who was visiting Zhaohua Park in China back in February. She was riding Journey in Space when her seatbelt ripped, and the only thing keeping her from going flying off the ride was a metal bar. People watched the teenager’s death in horror, some even recording the catastrophic event. Small children covered their ears as the screams and cries of onlookers deafened them. When the girl came crashing to the ground, other visitors attempted to come to her rescue by administering CPR, but nothing worked. Her parents were awarded over $100,000 in compensation, and it was later discovered that the ride hadn’t been officially been inspected since 2013.
11. Teen Is Decapitated After Ignoring Restricted Area Warning Signs At Batman: The Ride
The fast-moving Batman: The Ride coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia is one of the more popular attractions at the park. Most people try to stay away from the restricted areas fenced off around the ride because they don’t want to risk being hurt, but for reasons that officials still don’t know, 17-year-old Asia Leeshawn Ferguson of South Carolina hopped two six-foot fences and entered an area he wasn’t supposed to be in. Witnesses told police that they believed the teen was trying to find a hat that he had lost on the ride. Asia wasn’t alone; he brought a friend along with him, but as the train car was going full speed at 50 miles per hour, Asia was hit. The force of the blow decapitated him. It’s debatable who’s at fault in cases like these: the amusement park for not securing these dangerous areas better or the victims who ignore the warning signs and put themselves in jeopardy.
10. Daughter Watches As Mother Is Thrown From Texas Coaster And Lands 75 Feet Below
Six Flags amusement parks are used to having accidents, but not many like the one they experienced in 2013. It was Rosa Ayala-Gaona Esparza’s first time visiting the Six Flags park in Arlington, Texas. The 52-year-old and her daughter were taking a ride on the Texas Giant, but shortly after the ride started, things took a nasty turn. Rosa somehow was thrown out of the third seat of her train car and plummeted seven stories to her death. Her daughter watched as her mother fell, landing on the roof of the tunnel part of the ride. Her body was nearly split in half. Investigators were trying to determine whether or not the woman’s size and weight were a contributing factor. They didn’t believe that the restraints could properly protect her.
9. The Haunted Castle Fire That Claimed The Lives Of Eight Teens
This haunted house walk-through attraction was created to scare guests, but it turned into a real-life frightening scene in the Spring of 1984. The attraction was created to look like a medieval castle, complete with all the menacing decorations associated with a haunted house, and inside, as visitors walked through dimly lit hallways, actors dressed as creepy figures jumped out at tourists. It seemed to be pretty popular with the younger crowds.
On May 11, in the evening, a 14-year-old boy offered to help lead another kid through the maze. He used a cigarette lighter as a flashlight when one of the castle’s strobe lights malfunctioned, but in the dark, he accidentally set fire to a foam-rubber wall pad. The blaze spread quickly, trapping eight teenagers inside. Firefighters tried desperately to control the flames and rescue the group, but all of the teens, between 15 and 18 years old, died.
8. Audience Watches As Teen Is Crushed To Death
Debbie Stone was a teenager who thought she’d gotten one of the sweetest jobs in the world working at Disneyland. The 18-year-old cast member (what they call Disneyland employees) was a hostess for the America Sings attraction and was hoping to save money for college. The ride featured rotating walls, and somehow, whether she fell, tripped, or accidentally stepped backward and got caught, Debbie became trapped between the stationary wall and the one that was moving. She was crushed to death.
An audience member who heard Debbie’s final screams of agony alerted other staff members who had no idea what had happened. They, too, heard Debbie’s cries but thought it was apart of the show. Her parents later sued the park and received a small settlement.
7. A Roller Coaster Train Goes Barreling Backwards Into A Horrific Tragedy
The Big Dipper at the Battersea Park in London opened in 1951 and enjoyed almost 20 years before a deadly accident that took the lives of five people. People thought things were bad when the ride caught fire in 1970, but they hadn’t seen tragedy until the accident that occurred two years later. One of the trains’ ropes snapped, causing the train to go speeding back toward the station. Engineers frantically tried to slow down the momentum but the last carriage in the back hopped over the rails and went crashing into the barrier. Five children were killed and a dozen more people were hurt.
Carolyn Adamczky was a passenger during the accident and recalled the events saying, “As soon as we started shooting backwards, everything went into slow motion… I turned around and saw the brakeman desperately trying to put the brake on, but it wasn’tworking. Most of the carriages didn’t go around the bend, one detached and went off the side through a wooden hoarding. People were groaning and hanging over the edge. It was awful.”
6. 11-Year-Old Girl Almost Didn’t Go On The School Trip That Killed Her
Another raft ride proved to be dangerous when a school trip turned deadly. Young students were accompanied by their teachers to Drayton Manor Theme Park in the UK. One student, 11-year-old Evha Jannath, almost didn’t make the trip because when she showed up to school, administrators thought she wasn’t wearing appropriate clothing for a theme park. Evha ended up borrowing clothes so she could go and have fun with her friends. The day was filled with attractions and junk food, but the last ride of the day was supposed to be Splash Canyon. Evha was on the circular raft with three other students and a teacher when, in the middle of the ride, she stood up to switch seats with a friend. At the same time, the raft hit a rock, tossing Evha into the five-foot-deep waters. The heavy current on the ride dragged Evha under, and investigators think she hit her head.
5. Three People Die In Two Separate Incidents In The Same Day
What kind of bad luck does an amusement park need in order for there to be two separate incidents that claimed three lives on the same day? Terrible. Horrible. No good. Very bad luck. Ohio’s Kings Island amusement park suffered a triple tragedy in June of 1991. The first event was electrifying, quite literally. A man fell into a pond near the park’s beer garden and one of the park’s staff was sent to rescue him. Without warning, an electric current jolted both of the men and killed them instantly. A third man was also electrocuted, but he survived. Park staff couldn’t figure out where the electricity came from. On the other side of the park, a woman was on the Flight Commander ride, not knowing it would be her last trip. She fell 60 feet to her death after a harness and safety bar failed to protect her.
4. Teen Trying To Sneak Into Disneyland Loses Life
For dozens of schools, Disneyland’s Grad Nite is a rite of passage that graduating high school seniors get to enjoy every year. Students not permitted to attend (for whatever reasons) will do just about anything to get inside after hours when the park is closed to the public and overrun with teenagers and their chaperones until dawn. Northridge, California resident Thomas Cleveland wanted to get inside and enjoy the festivities, which included mock nightclubs and booming music echoing around the park. The 19-year-old was able to avoid the Mickey police and scaled a 16-foot fence, but he was spotted by security as he was making his way onto the monorail. The teen thought he would be able to jump down into the park, ignored the shouts of security, and was struck by a monorail train. His body was dragged for 30 to 40 feet before the train was able to come to a full stop.
3. Drownings At The Rivers Of America In Disneyland
It sits in front of the New Orleans Square and Frontierland at Disneyland in California and surrounds Tom Sawyer Island. Park guests can float on its waters on the Mark Twain Riverboat and the Sailing Ship Columbia. Ducks call it home, and in the evenings, it’s where people climb over each other to watch the Fantasmic water spectacular show. It’s Disneyland’s Rivers of America, an artificial river that has existed since the amusement park opened in 1955. It’s also the place where two people have died.
The first disaster happened in 1973 when an 18-year-old and his 10-year-old brother hid on Tom Sawyer’s island. They stayed past closing time but soon found out they didn’t have a way to get off of the island. The elder thought he would be able to swim across with his brother on his back but drowned halfway across. The surviving sibling doggie paddled until rescue came. Ten years later, another 18-year-old and his friend stole an emergency rubber boat from a restricted area. The teen drowned when he fell into the water.
2. Nebraska’s ‘Big Dipper’ Was All The Rage In 1930 Until The Catastrophe
In the Summer of 1930, people flocked to Krug Park in the Omaha, Nebraska area. The theme park was the perfect place for visitors to experience fascinating attractions, including the Big Dipper roller coaster. What riders didn’t know was that a deadly malfunction on the ride would result in four deaths that day.
One train had four cars that were reportedly carrying heavy loads. It was going up its first incline when a piece of the brake system loosened and jammed the wheel. One of the cars broke through the guardrail and dropped 35 feet while the other three followed. Four people were killed and 19 were hurt. Business was never the same, and Krug Park closed its doors for good ten years after the accident.
1. Toddler Drowns In Cinderella’s Moat While Mom Was Turned Away For A Few Minutes
Marietta Goode was at Disney World in Orlando, Florida with her four-year-old son, Joel, in 1977, visiting the amusement park from Illinois with relatives. She was getting some goodies at an ice cream stand and chatting with strangers as she prepared to watch a parade when her son walked off toward Cinderella’s castle. The unattended toddler made his way to the moat surrounding the princess’s home, climbed the fence, and slipped into the water, drowning. Three hours after his family reported him missing, his body was found in the five-foot body of water. The Goode’s sued Disney for $4 million for not having proper security around the moat, but a judge didn’t totally agree. They were awarded $1.5 million because the judge found that Marietta was 50 percent responsible for her son’s death.