The ten deadliest theme park accidents in history. When it comes to theme parks and amusement rides we all know that there’s an element of risk involved. That’s part of the thrill. Even though there are plenty of safety features and procedures in place, sometimes the unthinkable happens. Here’s our list of the ten deadliest theme park accidents in history.
10 Water Slide at Waterworld USA – California, USA. June 2, 1997 – 1 Death 32 injured
While there are plenty of tragedies at theme parks that claim one life, what sets this apart from those many sad events is the high number of injuries.
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Waterslides are rarely thought to be dangerous, however they are often more dangerous than many mechanical rides. A combination of poor safety controls, water, a more relaxed atmosphere, many low walls, speed, twists and turns make for a recipe for disaster. In fact, waterslides often contribute to more injuries than many other rides such as roller coasters.
On June 2, 1997 a group of graduating seniors had attended Waterworld in California. 33 of them had gathered on one slide when all of a sudden it gave way beneath them. All 33 of the students plummeted and a 17 year old male lost his life. The remaining 32 were all injured and attended hospital. At the graduation ceremony 17 of the students attended in wheelchairs.
9 King’s Island – Mason, Ohio, USA. June 9, 1991 – 2 Dead
If it rains, it pours. When things are going wrong they seem to keep going that way. This was the case on a June 9, 1991 which saw 2 catastrophes occur on one day at the one place.
It all started when a man fell into a pond at the park. It’s hardly looking like a life threatening scenario at the moment, but it would soon turn deadly.
The mans friend, 20-year-old William Haithcoat, and 20-year-old park employee Darrel Robertson entered the pond to help the stricken man, however all three men received an electric shock. Unfortunately Haithcoat and Robertson both died, and the man who started the turn of events survived the ordeal. But the day wasn’t yet done.
Around an hour later 32 year old Candy Taylor fell from a ride called the Flight Commander. The fall killing her instantly.
Since this tragic day King’s Island theme park is believed to be haunted. An episode of SyFy channel’s Ghost Hunters was filmed at the park in 2012.
8 Rough Riders Roller Coaster at Coney Island – Brooklyn, New York, USA. July 28, 1915 – 3 Dead
The original name for the Rough Rider roller coaster was called the Drop-the-Dip. It was renamed in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. But one day in July, 1915 tragedy struck the roller coaster when one of the cars derailed, flipped and sent three people to their death.
7 Roller Coaster at Nobovvat park – Karaj, Iran. August 11, 2001 – 3 Dead
Karaj is a city about 40 kilometers west of the capital Tehran, and it was the site of what could be considered three avoidable deaths.
On the 11th August 2001, a carriage on a popular roller coaster flew off the rails, sending its occupants through the air. Three people were killed in the accident and another four were injured. A group of visitors later attacked official park buildings smashing windows in protest at the lack of safety measures at the amusement park.
6 Mindbender at Galaxyland Amusement Park – Alberta, Canada. June 14, 1986 – 3 Dead
The Mindbender roller coaster is the world’s largest indoor triple loop roller coaster. Its designers declared it was the safest roller coaster in the world. But in 1986 it proved to be far from the safest.
On June 14, 1986 the bolts on the rear inside left wheel assembly of the last car in a four car carriage were missing. This caused the car to disengage from the track and start fishtailing behind the other cars on the train. The fishtailing caused it to collide with the structure of the roller coaster and throw off passengers. It finally stalled at the final loop before sliding back and crashing into a concrete pillar. Three people lost their life by being thrown to the ground or hanging from the track. A fourth person sustained serious chest and neck injuries.
Since the accident the ride has undergone improvements in safety and now holds an incredible safety record.
5 The Thunder River Rapid Ride at Dreamworld – The Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. October 25, 2016 – 4 Dead
Sometimes the safest rides can unexpectedly become the deadliest. This is certainly one of them. Having personally ridden this ride I can say it was one ride I felt comfortable placing my young children on. The ride seats six people who are fasted in with a velcro belt and basically rides on water and conveyor belts.
At 2:20 pm local time on a warm and sunny day Australia’s largest and most popular theme park turned into a tragic scene. Mere moments from the end of a ride, and safety, the pod, which resembles a large tire tube, ran into another pod which had become stuck and flipped, throwing two of its occupants, children aged 10 and 12, into the air. The other four occupants were killed. Two of them became pinned under the heavy pod while the other two drowned when they got caught under the conveyor belt. Four adults aged between 32 and 42 were killed, with the two surviving children of the occupants watching on in horror.
4 Big Dipper at Krug Park, Nebraska, USA. July 24, 1930 – 4 Dead
This is the deadliest roller coaster ride in the US. It caused four deaths and another nineteen injuries. The fallout of the disaster was so immense that the law makers banned all roller coasters within city limits.
On July 24, 1930 the Big Dipper at Krug Park became a scene of horror when a brake system failed causing several carriages to fall 35 feet to the ground. Four of the occupants were killed and another nineteen onlookers were injured.
3 The Big Dipper at Battersea Fun Fair – London, England, United Kingdom. June 2, 1972 – 5 Dead
There appears to be a bit of a trend here, so my advice is to avoid any ride called the Big Dipper.
This is perhaps the most heartbreaking event on the list and also holds the distinction of being the deadliest roller coaster accident in history. And it could have been avoided.
The Big Dipper was an old timber roller coaster at Battersea, and was the main attraction. Made from timber, it offered plenty of thrills for its riders. However, being timber also means that it is prone to faster deterioration than modern steel roller coasters, and constant maintenance is a must.
In May 1972 a deadly chain of events unfolded that would claim the lives of 5 children. As the train was approaching the top of the launch hill the rope that dragged it up snapped sending it back down the hill backwards. The anti-rollback mechanism should have kicked in, but failed. The train continued to roll backwards past the boarding area and crashed into a wall killing five children and injuring another thirteen.
2 Eco-Adventure Valley Space Journey – Overseas Chinese Town East – Shenzhen, China. June 29, 2010 – 6 Dead
The Eco-Adventure Valley Space Journey was a rocket launch simulator. It was a series of cars that spun around a centrifuge while displaying videos about space.
During the ride one of the rockets, with 44 people inside, came loose and lost power. It bounced around the chamber and started an electrical fire before falling 35 feet. Six of the occupants will killed from the impact of the five ton rocket,five more criticall injured and a further five sustaining serious injuries. Nearly all of the occupants who were taken to hospital were unconscious when they arrived.
1 Haunted Castle at Six Flags Great Adventure – Jackson Township, New Jersey, USA. May 11, 1984 – 8 Dead
Completing our list of the deadliest theme park accidents is a surprising addition. As we have seen from some of the example on this list, sometimes the tamest attractions can prove to be the most deadly. In fact few would think that a standard haunted house experience could cause any deaths at all. Unfortunately the haunted castle at Six Flags Great Adventure proved simple things can be deadly.
In May 1984 few would have thought that an experience that you participate on your feet without being flung into the air could turn into a disaster. Unfortunately the castle burst into flames while visitors were enjoying the attraction, and with assistance from wind the flames soon reached 2,000 degrees. The intense heat soon melted the walls and turned the castle into a raging inferno.
Most of the visitors escaped, but eight teenagers became trapped and died in the blaze. Their bodies were unrecognizable.