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The Nation's Most Notorious Amusement Park Accidents


When you go on a roller coaster or another ride, you expect to be safe. Even walking around Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, or Walt Disney World® should be a pleasant experience, free from danger. Unfortunately, theme parks are just as prone to negligence, accidents, and injuries as any other location. If the individual or institution charged with maintaining a ride or the park grounds fails to take the appropriate care, people get hurt.

Below are some of the most notorious amusement park accidents in U.S. History.

Disney Disasters

In 2003, Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad came off the tracks, killing 1 and injuring 10 others. Investigators determined the accident occurred because Disney staff failed to follow proper maintenance procedures. The ride is still open today, although it was refurbished in 2012 and again in 2020.

Another infamous Disneyland accident occurred on the Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin ride when a 4-year-old boy fell from the coaster and became trapped under a car. The boy suffered brain damage and various internal injuries and died in 2009 – 8 years after the accident. As a result of the tragedy, Disney installed doors and added bumpers to the coaster’s cars. The ride remains open.

Disney’s California Adventure, Disneyland Paris, and Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando each have accelerated drop tower rides originally known as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™. This ride has been the cause of various injuries. A 16-year-old girl had a stroke and heart attack after riding the Florida ride several times in 2005. In 2010, a 20-year-old man took a 25 to 30-foot fall while waiting in line for the ride and was rushed to the hospital. Finally, in 2011, a 12-year-old boy was paralyzed from the neck down after riding a version of the ride in Disneyland Paris. All the rides are still running today.

Fatal Fairgrounds

The rides at state and county fairs are transported from location to location, rebuilt days before use, and only inspected once a year. As such, they are “probably not as safe as you would like,” according to Safety First Consulting.

In 2017, a ride called the Fire Ball malfunctioned at the Ohio State Fair, injuring 7 and taking the life of an 18-year-old. The accident occurred because of excessive corrosion on the interior of the gondola support beam, and it is far from the only amusement park accident to occur at local fairs.

A mechanical failure at a county fair in Greenville, Tennessee, for example, caused a Ferris wheel basket to flip and injured 3 teenage girls in 2016.

Other recent traveling carnival accidents include:

  • 1 death and 2 injuries on the Sizzler in El Paso, Texas (2016)
  • An incident in which an 11-year-old girl had her scalp torn from her head on a spinning carnival ride in Omaha, Nebraska (2016)
  • 6 injuries and head trauma due to a roller coaster at the 87th Street Carnival in Chicago, Illinois (2016)

Data from CNN reveals that 92,885 children were treated in emergency rooms for amusement park injuries from 1990 to 2010. This averages out to nearly 5,000 amusement park injuries each year, as many as 70% of which occur at traveling carnivals.

Worrisome Water Parks

In 2016, the world’s tallest waterslide was located in Kansas City, Kansas. The 168-foot-tall slide was called the Verruckt, which is German for insane. Tragically, a 10-year-old boy was decapitated when his raft went airborne and he struck the metal rod that held the safety net in place. Two other passengers also sustained facial injuries, and the ride was dismantled 2 years later.

Sadly, water park accidents and injuries are not as rare as we might think. Just this year, HBO released a documentary called Class Action Park, which chronicles a safety-issue-ridden water park in New Jersey.

Aside from Verruckt and the notorious Action Park, which was shut down in 1996, water parks have a long – and sometimes scary – history, chronicled here by The Mercury News.

Catastrophic Coasters

No matter where they are, roller coasters and other amusement park attractions can and do cause accidents. In 2013, a 52-year-old woman fell 75 feet to her death from the Texas Giant at Six Flags in Arlington, Texas. Another Six Flags in Jackson Township, New Jersey was home to a fire that killed 8 teens in a Haunted Castle in 1984.

The list seems to go on and on, with children slipping out of safety harnesses, failed safety mechanisms, and rides that neglect to take important safety precautions before it’s too late.

If you are injured at an amusement park due to someone else’s negligence, you need to know your legal rights.

What To Do After An Amusement Park Injury

After any kind of accident, your priority should be seeking medical attention. Once you are stable, contact Paulsen Law Group to discuss your rights and legal options. We have more than 15 years of experience handling amusement park accidents and with our convenient locations across Florida, we can help you with injuries that occur at both large amusement parks and local carnival.

Call us at (727) 270-8260 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation today.

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