Amusement rides are supposed to fool you in experiencing the thrills of danger while keeping you perfectly safe. Occasionally, visitors get an unexpected bonus that leaves their clothes blood-soaked.
Tragedies wait to happen every step of the way. All that is needed is a faulty screw or a broken axle. Even when everything functions as it was supposed to, someone is foolish enough not to attach the safety belt or to step out of the vehicle.
Heartbreaking stories of children losing their lives might remain in the headlines for weeks in a row. However, that never puts amusement parks out of action. A strange business model applies, and negative publicity attracts people thirsty for some cheap adrenaline shots.
When your kids are anxious to grow up just to be admitted on rides, that 1% probability of them not returning home in one piece could make lose nights. You must read about the 15 most horrific accidents that happened in amusement parks if you plan to scare your kids out of it.
Besides the hazards of the rides themselves, count on drunken patrons, and unskilled teenage employees that can do little to enforce safety and discipline. Add in the mania of breaking records and being challenged, and you can understand why amusement parks accidents will continue to happen in the future.
1. Space Journey at Eco-Adventure Valley, Shenzen, China (2010)
Six people died, and tens were seriously injured when the Space Journey amusement ride at Eco-Adventure Valley, Shenzen (China) went very wrong.
The experience was based on a centrifuge system able to simulate the incredible accelerations level astronauts go through during takeoff. Investigations revealed that a faulty screw was to blame for giving innocent visitors more than they bargained for.
When you build a space shuttle simulator, it is impossible for things not to go wrong at some point. It happens to everyone, and it is enough to remember NASA itself lost two space shuttles – Challenger and Columbia.
The ride failed in such a bloody way only one year since it was open, making many people wonder if it is safe at all to go on a ride developed by Chinese engineers.
2. Haunted Castle at Six Flags Great Adventure Jackson, New Jersey (1984)
Six Flags is synonymous with fun and experiencing the extraordinary.
However, the Haunted Castle at Six Flags Great Adventure Jackson (New Jersey) offered unlucky visitors more than a couple of goosebumps.
Eight teenagers burned to death in an accidental bonfire that melted together metal, plastic, and flesh. Rescue teams had a tough job differentiating the disfigured children from the plastic monsters that populated the ride.
You will never believe how the ones operating the amusement park got away with it. The Haunted Castle was registered as a temporary structure and therefore did not need sprinklers and smoke detectors.
As for the scapegoat, management pointed the finger at arson. Dead bodies were not able to tell a different story. Who would have thought that one of the biggest disasters in the history of amusement parks happened without the help of gravity?
3. The Big Dipper at Battersea Fun Fair, London (1972)
Five children dead and 13 crucially injured was enough to confirm that roller coasters are the most dangerous rides you could find in an amusement park.
The Big Dipper Battersea Fun Fair accident takes us back to the glory days when roller coasters were built out of wood. Yep, you heard right! The structure that was supposed to keep the speeding cars on track was far more flexible than what we now see as standards.
However, the rope that brings the cars at the top was the one to break. Paired with a dysfunctional anti-rollback mechanism, it sent the vehicle in the opposite direction, crashing it into a wall.
The Battersea Fun Fair struggled to rebuild its reputation after the horrific accident and eventually closed two years after.
4. Six Flags over Georgia, Atlanta (2008)
Although only one child died in the roller coaster accident, the details are gruesome.
They don’t put those safety fences for nothing. Everyone knows that venturing outside the vehicle is not safe, especially when all the instructions tell you not to.
17-year-old Asia Leeshawn lost his head after ignoring both the warning and common sense. The boy was hit by a roller coaster speeding at over 80 km/h while trying to retrieve a lost hat.
A similar tragedy happened six years later, fueling the rumor that the ride was cursed. Only this time, a groundskeeper ventured into the forbidden area.
Call us malicious, but people like those deserve what’s coming their way. Roller coasters are death machines waiting for the slightest form of negligence to strike.
5. Human Trebuchet at Middlemoor Water Park (2002)
Using a medieval siege weapon to have the time of your life doesn’t sound safe at all.
For 19-year-old Oxford student Kostydin Yankov, flying through the air and missing the safety net proved to be the last things he ever experienced. The trebuchet installed at Middlemoor Water Park worked just fine until someone messed up the calculations.
Ballistics is not an exact science, especially when you take in account various weights, wind speed, and the fatigue experienced by materials. Not to mention the fact that this was a ride operating without a license and the result of a hobby.
Yankov ignored many warning signs that would have made others change their mind. The man that was catapulted before him barely reached the net, and a woman broke her pelvis as she bounced in an uncontrolled way.
Can you imagine the horror of realizing you are not going to reach safety? Crashing to the ground gave the unfortunate thrill-seeker a bloody taste of the medieval times.
6. Mindbender at Galaxyland Amusement Park, Alberta, Canada (1986)
Three people died while riding the Mindbender in 1986, in an accident that showed once more that roller coasters are the most dangerous forms of amusement.
The accident was even more shocking because it occurred on what was previously considered the “safest ride in the world.” The finest display of German engineering at that time was no match for negligence. One missing bolt was enough to make the train disengage from its normal trajectory and jump off the track.
The falling cars hit some hard stuff in its uncontrollable descent, crushing three of the passengers and leaving another with life-threatening injuries.
Even worse, the accident was watched live by thousands of people that assembled for a concert. The irony is that people were cheering, believing the so-called accident to be part of the special effects.
7. King’s Island, Mason, Ohio (1991)
There is no such thing as curses! Tell that to the ones experiencing the horrors of King’s Island, on June 9, 1991.
Two separate incidents occurred on the same day, a coincidence that made many raise eyebrows. The fateful day was highly reflected in the media, most often being associated with tales of ghost sightings that foresaw the tragedies before they unfolded.
The first case involved a man that fell into a pond and the two that came to his rescue. They all suffered an electric shock that left the two rescuers dead. Later in the day, a more typical amusement ride accident happened as someone fell from a roller coaster named the Flight Commander.
King’s Island is still open and claims to be the largest amusement park in the Midwest. Children still talk about the horrors that happened 15 years ago while waiting in line.
8. Water Slide at Waterworld USA, California (1997)
Water slides sound safer than speeding cars just waiting to be derailed by a missing part. Wrong!
30 high school students were injured, and one died while trying to break a record. Apparently, the ride’s structure was not calculated to hold the weight of many people at the same time.
25 meters might not sound much when water pushes you down on the fun-packed twists and bends. However, that’s the also the typical height of an eight story building.
The teenagers were so eager to have fun before their graduation that they ignored the guard trying to control them. As we all know, amusement parks are the battleground where safety precautions meet the obsession for breaking records and everlasting fame.
9. Oakwood Theme Park, Pembrokeshire, Wales (2004)
16-year-old Hayley Williams succumbed to internal injuries after falling more than 30m from the top of a ride.
You could call Hydro the jewel of the crown for the Oakwood Theme Park. The roller coaster combines the thrills of the speeding cars with the splash effect of a water slide.
Even when there is nothing wrong at a mechanical level, faulty safety harnesses can be equally deadly. A later investigation revealed that only luck prevented more people from having a similar fate.
Although the court ruled a substantial fine, many saw Hayley as a sacrifice needed to raise awareness on the importance of checking harnesses and safety belts on a daily basis.
“Europe’s fastest and wettest watercoaster” reopened after a year and was renamed “Drenched.” We sure hate when marketing shows so little respect towards the dead.
10. Verruckt Water Slide At Schlitterbahn Waterpark, Kansas City (2016)
When 10-year-old Caleb Schwab died on the Verruckt water slide, some heartless bastards were quick to call the ride a launching ramp for Heaven.
Water slides can be equally deadly as roller coasters. All you need is someone disobeying the safety precautions.
Those accusing the park felt that Caleb was too young to understand the risks involved in riding the tallest water slide. Over 60 meters high, the drop propels the raft and its passengers at phenomenal speeds.
The net that was supposed to prevent anyone from falling worked against the little boy by cutting his head. Caleb went airborne high enough for his neck to snap in contact with the rigid frame of the net.
The incident occurred last and year, and determined authorities to suspend the Schlitterbahn Waterpark license until investigations conclude.
11. Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas (2013)
Most amusement park accidents involve children.
Only this time, a young girl sat and watched hopelessly how her mother gets cut in two after a horrific fall. Rosa Ayala Esparza was the unlucky passenger whose safety harness did not work.
Esparza fell 25 meters and landed on the metal roof of the ride’s Honky Tonk Tunnel. Can you imagine seeing your mother with her feet in the air and not being able to do anything about it?
Six Flags escaped the massive lawsuit by blaming the cars’ manufacturers. Modern rides have sensors indicating when the safety restraints are on. However, nothing warned the staff about the drama unfolding many tens of meters into the air.
The accident comes to show that even with all the modern technology, no one guarantees for your life once you get on board the death machines.
12. Fujin Raijin II Roller Coaster at Expoland, Osaka, Japan (2007)
Repeated accidents happening at the same amusement park mean that someone is not good at learning lessons.
A woman died, and 19 others were injured at the Fujin Raijin roller coaster operating in Expoland, Osaka. Another incident occurring in the same year determined the owners to close the park and admit defeat at the hands of ill fate.
19-year-old Yoshino Kogawara died ironically on Children Day 2007, triggering a large-scale media onslaught on amusement parks all across Japan. The woman hit her head on a guardrail at a speed of over 75 km/h.
A broken wheel axle caused the whole train to derail and bring the passengers’ heads on a trajectory abnormally close to the metal enclosure. Investigations showed extreme negligence to be the cause.
The unlucky axle failed after 15 years of use during which no one took a close look at it.
13. Action Park, Vernon, New Jersey (1980s)
It’s time to talk about amusement parks that built a bad reputation over the years through isolated incidents. The Vernon Action Park is one of them.
Throughout the 1980s, six people died from rides hosted by the Action Park. The deaths involved drowning, falling off speeding vehicles, and even electrocution. However, the most unlucky visitor went into cardiac arrest in 1984 after experienced a sudden change of water temperature.
A joke very popular amongst locals is “you know you’re from New Jersey when you’ve been seriously injured at the Action Park.” Indeed, freak accidents occurring in amusement parks are a crucial part of popular culture.
The small odds of getting yourself in trouble makes them a touristic attraction rather than something that scares you away.
14. Sea World Orlando, Florida (1999)
27-year-old Daniel Dukes was found dead at SeaWorld Orlando, in an incident that involved a serial killer from the animal kingdom – Tilikum, the orca.
When the amusement parks are careful enough to ensure visitors’ protection, some still find ways to put themselves in harm’s way. Dukes stayed after the park closed and made his way into Tilikum’s enclosure, just to get a shot at playing with the 6-ton beast.
The man’s ambition made no sense. He wanted to bond with Tilikum at first contact, an accomplishment that takes even the most skilled trainers many weeks. The killer whale attacked and drowned the man who was found in the morning.
Gruesome details reveal that the animal ripped Dukes’ scrotum open.
15. Discovery Cove Orlando, Florida (2009 and 2011)
Amusement parks hide all kinds of dangers and the two incidents that happened at the Discovery Cove show just how unlucky some of us are.
Back in 2009, a 59-year-old cut his toe after stepping on a coral and later died after developing septicemia. The doctors attempted to amputate both legs when it was already too late.
2011 was not a deadly year for Discovery Cove. Three guests and five employees narrowly survived after lightning struck inside the amusement park. With all the water rides, that the last place you want to be.