Water parks are meant to be a fun and exciting place for families. For many kids (and some big kids) this is the whole reason they look forward to summer – to ride the flume logs and epic water slides. Sadly, some water parks have also been the scene of unspeakable tragedy for some families, turning their loved one’s best day into every parent’s worst nightmare. We trust theme parks to always put our safety first, but as this haunting list proves, nothing is ever guaranteed.
An alarming number of accidents at water parks and theme parks around the world have happened in the last few years alone, the latest major accident happening as recently as early May of this year at the UK’s Drayton Manor theme park. Despite increasing commitments to safety measures at amusement parks, horrific accidents like this keep happening and it’s making us feel less and less confident about ever setting foot in one again.
From freak accidents to those caused by poorly maintained rides, each of these water park disasters are disturbing in their own way and most of them could have easily been avoided. What began as fun days out ended with rides collapsing from underneath people, rides being struck by lightning, and some people falling to their deaths from atop the tallest water slides. If you had plans to visit a water park this summer, you might think twice after reading some of these horror stories. Here are some of the worst water park disasters ever.
15. 10-Year-Old Boy Decapitated On World’s Tallest Water Slide
In perhaps the most horrific water slide accident and one of the most tragic theme park tragedies in recent memory, a young boy lost his life in the most gruesome way possible in 2016 when he plummeted down a water slide at high speed and was decapitated. 10-year-old Caleb Schwab was riding the world’s tallest water slide at the Schlitterbahn Water Park In Kansas City when he was thrown through the safety netting around the slide and fell 50 ft to the ground.
The ride that caused Caleb’s tragic and gory death was the Verrucht water slide which stood at nearly 170 feet high with riders reaching speeds of 65mph. Astonishingly, the water slide had never been inspected in the two years it was open to the public. Several witnesses on the ground saw Caleb fly out of the ride, while those closer reported seeing the ride “streaked with blood”. The ride rightly closed down for good the same day.
14. Man Who Slid Off An Open Air Water Slide Onto Rocks Below
While cruising down an outdoor water slide in Austin, Texas, one poor guy gained so much momentum that as he turned the corners, he flew off the ride completely and landed on the rocks around 10 to 15 feet below! Dallas man David Salmon was clearly enjoying the ride – having gone down the water slide a number of times before – but he built up so much speed on his next turn that he careered off the slide and onto the cliff edge. Hell no!
David luckily survived the tumble overboard but came out of it with a broken arm and fractured ribs. His friend caught the terrifying moment he disappeared off the edge and onto the rocky cliff face below. The clip went viral on David’s Facebook page but Salmon wishes he had gone viral for a better reason than this: “I don’t want to be famous because of this freak accident.” Trust us, David, you’ve far more dignity than some viral videos we could mention.
13. The “Human Catapult” Attraction At UK Water Park
Before you even hear what happened, nothing sounds particularly fun about the words “human catapult” does it? While we can’t understand what possessed a theme park to create a ride with this kind of name and concept, it seemed to be a pretty popular attraction at the Middlemoor water park in Somerset. The medieval style attraction called the “Human Trebuchet” launched people over 75 feet in the air and “caught” them in a free-standing net held up by two poles.
Unsurprisingly, the so-called safety net was pretty badly thought out and caused one unlucky visitor at the theme park to catapult to his death. A student from Oxford died back in 2002 when the safety net failed to catch him after launching into the air. “Medieval” is a fair description of this ridiculous attraction – from the flimsy poles to the ridiculously small safety net, there’s nothing well-designed about this awful ride whatsoever.
12. 100 ft. Fall From Europe’s Fastest Water Ride
The Hydro water slide at the Oakwood theme park in Wales has been labelled Europe’s “fastest and wettest” ride. They may want to add “most dangerous” too since one teenage girl fell to her death as a result of poor safety checks. 16-year-old Hayley Williams was on holiday with her friends and family when she went on the Hydro attraction of the theme park. Tragically, her seat guard wasn’t secured properly by staff and she fell 100 feet to her death.
According to her friends and loved ones, Hayley wasn’t usually a risk taker but decided to try out the water ride while on holiday. Sadly, this decision cost a young girl her life and in a gruesome manner too. Pembrokeshire police in Wales and the park employees believe that, based on her injuries, Hayley would have hit the metal structure of the ride on her way down after falling from her seat.
11. One Kid’s Vertical Drop Down Slide
This wasn’t so much a water slide as a free fall experience. In a video clip that has now gone viral, one poor boy can be seen falling down a water ride that is at such a vertical angle, he pretty much drops in mid air. This looked less like a water slide and more like the kind of vertical tube that Mario teleports through. Unfortunately, this poor dude did not have a soft and safe landing like our favourite pixelated plumber – far from it. The kid appeared to fall straight down in mid-air rather than slide inside the tube. Yikes.
The now viral footage of the fall was shot in 2008 at Seven Peaks water park in Utah and it’s enough to make anyone’s stomach lurch a little while watching it. The kid was riding a slip n slide ride (you can say that again!) when the tunnel of the ride opens up just before the end. The boy had clearly gathered some speed while approaching the tunnel opening because he launches into the air without even touching the sides. If he had fallen at a further angle, he could have very well been falling to his death.
10. Crushed To Death Underneath Water Raft
One of the most popular water rides at Australia’s Dreamworld theme park was also the scene of a horrific accident in 2016 when two people drowned and two others on the ride were crushed to death. This all happened on the Thunder River Rapids ride where raft cars of four to six people travel down a narrow river route before coming to a slow stop when they reach the conveyor belt at the end of the ride.
Everything was going well until the raft got to the end of the conveyor belt. Unfortunately, another raft car had become stuck at the top and they crashed into it, causing their raft to flip over on itself. In an instant, two people in the ride were crushed to death under the raft and two others became trapped under the conveyor belt and drowned. The Dreamworld ride has since been demolished, but this kind of accident is enough to put us off going on any kind of rapid ride.
9. “Party Powder” Explosion At Taiwan Water Park
In one every bizarre and deadly water park accident back in 2015, a colourful dust explosion caused 15 people to lose their lives at a water park in Taiwan. 15 patrons at the Formosa Fun Coast park in New Taipei were killed when a flammable coloured powder was sprayed from a stage performance and onto the crowd below. The powder reportedly ignited under the heat of the stage lights and transformed into a massive fireball that instantly killed many and left hundreds of other guests with severe burns.
More than 500 people were left injured as a result of the random powder explosion and almost 200 people were believed to be in a critical condition. This harrowing accident has been considered the “worst incident of mass injury ever in New Taipei.” Those who survived the deadly dust explosion have undergone surgery for moderate and severe burns and have needed intense rehabilitation for their injuries.
8. Boy Fell To Concrete Off Water Slide On Park’s Opening Day
A theme park that opened just last month in California didn’t exactly get off to the best start when one boy suffered a painful water slide accident on the day the park opened. The Wave water park in Dublin, California opened its doors to the public in late May but made the wrong kind of headlines when a 10-year-old boy flew from the edge of the Emerald Plunge water slide and fell on to the concrete below. Ouch!
The boy – luckily – didn’t fall from a great height and shortly left hospital with a few cuts and scrapes, but considering the height of the ride, this accident could have been a hell of a lot worse. The Emerald Plunge water slide had an 80-foot drop! The ride (which cost a whopping $43 million to build) has since been closed while managers try to figure out ways the slide could be safer. Putting soft crash mats over the concrete would be a good start.
7. Death From Septic Shock At Sea World Resort
When you’re hanging out around cute Bottlenose dolphins in a Sea World attraction, you don’t expect to die from cutting your toe on a rock. Sadly though, this really is what happened to one visitor in 2009 when he was exploring marine life with professional divers. What should have been an awesome, eye-opening experience for the young man soon turned tragic when he cut his toe on coral and developed a deadly infection.
The incident happened at Discovery Cove – the sister park of Sea World Orlando – while the young man was taking part in an attraction that allows visitors to get up close and personal with the sea creatures. A cut to the toe proved fatal for this guy since he was a haemophiliac – meaning his blood didn’t clot normally and would continue flowing after an injury. He was later diagnosed with septic shock and organ failure as a result of the injury.
6. Ride Lifeguard Hit During Aggressive Thunderstorm
Would you still want to ride a water slide if the weather started to get increasingly stormy? Some visitors were still willing to take that risk as they continued to line up by a water slide at the Adventure Island water park in Tampa. Fortunately, there was a really brave lifeguard at the top of the ride warning people not to get on. While he was warning riders to keep away from the water slide at 700ft, he was tragically struck by lightning and killed.
Thanks to the bravery of 21-year-old Justin Savers Inversso, no one else was reported injured during the violent thunderstorm. Justin was standing in shallow water at the top of the Key West Rapids Ride at the water park while helping to evacuate visitors from the slide. The park was later fined $7000 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for failing to shut down the ride before the storm approached.
5. The New Jersey Park Responsible For Six Deaths
To say that the Action Park facility in Vernon, New Jersey has a bad reputation would be understating things a little. This amusement park in the Mountain Creek ski resort has claimed the lives of six people in its time and was known as America’s “most dangerous water park ever.” Over its time, the fateful Action Park was responsible for six deaths in the space of a decade. There were numerous cases of people drowning. One other park visitor suffered a heart attack and another was electrocuted while using the rides.
Members of the public weren’t the only ones to fall under the theme park’s creepy death curse. An Action Park employee was also killed when his ride fell off the tracks on the park’s Alpine Slide. Despite a reputation for poor staff management and even shoddier attitude to maintenance and safety, the dreaded theme park is somehow still open to visitors. Insane.
4. Flume Ride Disaster When Water Pump Failed
The worst case scenario when you’re slipping across a home-made slide in your backyard without any water is that you may hurt your butt, but a theme park ride running out of water is a different story. On a log flume ride in Siam Park in Thailand, an electric power failure happened at the worst possible moment as it caused the ride’s water pump to dry out while one group was still riding the flume ride.
After the water pump failed, park onlookers were horrified to see one of the log flumes – that was carrying six people – fall 66ft from the very top of the ride’s lift to the ground. With no water for the log boat to float on, the capsule just free-fell onto the ground below. This horrifying incident happened back in 2007 and resulted in one woman’s death and serious injuries in the other five people on the ride.
3. Graduation Party Turned Tragedy At Waterworld USA
What should have been an awesome celebration among friends ended in tragedy at a water park in California. Back in 1997, a large group of around 33 teenagers decided to celebrate their graduation with a visit to Waterworld California (then Waterworld USA). All 33 teen graduates chose to ride simultaneously on the Concorde water slide at the park, but in their excitement, they didn’t realize the weight limit capacity.
With all 33 teens on the ride at once, the Concorde slide was bearing three times the weight it was designed to hold and it soon gave in and collapsed. 32 of the graduation party teens were badly injured and one student was killed – she was just 18 years old. It’s tragic that none of the teens thought twice about the maximum weight capacity on the ride, but that’s the whole point of being young and having fun – they didn’t see the danger, only the moment and this is what makes this accident so sad.
2. Teen Who Lost Consciousness After Hitting Water Slide Tunnel
While riding an inflatable raft with three friends down a closed water tunnel, one girl lost her grip and fell back into the water. She didn’t appear to be hurt at first, since the ride was not very fast but it soon became obvious that she had hit her head on the tunnel wall, causing her to convulse slightly while her brother checked if she was okay. It turns out that 16-year-old Rea had suffered a spinal injury and was temporarily in a kind of shock paralysis from the fall.
At this point, Rea’s brother and her friends stopped the raft ride to help her out. To make things worse, other people were still coming down the tunnel ride. Thankfully, the group were close to the exit of the ride and lifeguards quickly carried Rea away on a spinal board to check her over. Rea luckily came away with just spinal bruising but had it turned into a head injury, this could have caused lifelong problems.
1. Girl’s Rapid Ride Death While On School Trip
In early May of this year, a young girl died tragically after falling from the Splash Canyon water ride at Drayton Manor theme park in the UK. 11-year-old Evha Jannath was visiting the theme park as part of a school treat when things took a horrific turn. Jannath was on the tall Splash Canyon water ride at the park when the boat she was sitting in hit a rock and threw her out and into the water. She was momentarily sitting up to adjust herself when she fell out.
Tragically, one of Jannath’s school friends told the press that she nearly missed the opportunity to go on the field trip and that the Splash Canyon ride was the last one she had planned to go on before going home. The Drayton Manor park saw another tragedy occur on a water ride just a few years before in 2012 when a mother suffered a cardiac arrest at the end of one of the rides. 42-year-old Carla Knight had just come off the Maelstrom ride at the park when she collapsed and died at the scene.