When parents take their family to a theme park, they assume that nothing can go wrong there. Why would anyone think you wouldn't be safe when these places are branded as the happiest places on Earth? But sometimes tragedy can strike at even the coolest theme parks, no matter how many staff members are present or how often rides were inspected.
As a result, some of these amusement park accidents have left people severely injured while other park goers have lost their lives on what was supposed to be a fun-filled family day. Sometimes it's better to be safe than sorry when deciding if you should get on a roller coaster that seems scary in all the wrong ways.
Silver Dollar City Rollercoaster, 1980
No one had died at Silver Dollar City in Missouri since the theme park first opened in 1960. But all that changed on July 9, 1980 when 23-year-old James Frederick Polley was riding on the Fire in the Hole rollercoaster. The workers were unaware that Polley and other passengers were aboard the train, so they switched the ride from the main tracks to a maintenance track that had a low hanging door. When the workers realized their mistake, they screamed to the riders to duck down. But Polley didn’t react in time and hit his head on the hanging door. Sadly, he did not survive his injuries.
Treetop Twister at Lightwater Valley, 2001
In June of 2001, a 20-year-old named Gemma Savage lost her life after two carriages on the Treetop Twist at Lightwater Valley Theme Park crashed into each other. Unfortunately, her head and spinal injuries were too severe. Savage was from Wath-upon-Dearne, South Yorkshire, and had come to the amusement park to spend some time with her friends from Durham University. She just never imagined that her outing that day would be her last day on Earth.
Superman: Tower of Power, 2007
A 16-year-old girl’s feet were severed when a cord snapped and wrapped around her ankles while she rode the Superman: Tower of Power ride at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom Amusement Park in Louisville, Kentucky. The ride drops 154 feet at 54 mph, but was considered relatively safe until this happened in 2007. Once eyewitness said: "The people on the ride just came and hit the ground. When I got up there, the lady was sitting there, and she didn't have any legs. She was just there, calm, probably in shock from everything."
Rollo Coaster, 2016
An accident occurred on the Rollo Coaster ride at the Idlewild and SoakZone amusement park in Pennsylvania. The ride was built way back in 1938 and didn’t have seat belts. So, riders were secured by a lap bar. Unfortunately, a 3-year-old boy who was riding the roller coaster with his older brother was ejected during the ride’s last turn. The boy then fell about 12 feet and landed on the tracks. Rescue teams airlifted the boy to the hospital where doctors treated his injuries.
Sand Blaster, 2018
On June 14, 2018, two riders fell from the Sand Blaster roller coaster at the Daytona Beach Boardwalk in Florida after the ride derailed. Several passengers were injured as a result and crews had to rescue ten riders, of which six were rushed to the hospital. But the two that fell were in the worst shape. An investigation of the accident determined that excessive speed and damage to the track and axle systems were the cause of the derailment.
In 1997, a 14-year-old boy was thrown from an amusement park ride when the roller coaster car slipped backwards and slammed into the car behind it on the Wildcat ride at Bell’s Amusement Park. Eyewitnesses claimed they saw the boy being ejected from the front car where he slammed his head on the ride’s metal bar. Two other boys, a dad and his two daughters, and another girl were also injured and treated at a separate hospital.
Wild Wonder at Gillian's Wonderland Pier, 1999
Kimberly Bailey and her daughter Jessica of Pomona, New York, were onboard the Wild Wonder roller coaster when their car suddenly slipped backward and smashed into a car that was being loaded for the next ride. The people their car had hit were injured, but luckily survived. Unfortunately, Bailey and her daughter were not so fortunate. They lost their lives after succumbing to their injuries.
King’s Crown, 2016
11-year-old Elizabeth Gilreath was on a spinning carnival ride at a Cinco de Mayo festival in Omaha, Nebraska when her long hair got stuck in the ride’s machinery. The girl experienced excruciating agony for approximately 10 minutes as she was whipped around violently. To make things worse, her scalped was ripped from her head. But fortunately, she was rushed to the hospital and underwent a number of surgeries to reattach her scalp and repair her damaged skin. She also suffered an eye injury, but her vision has reportedly improved since the accident.
Drop Zone, 1999
The Drop Zone “free-fall” tower at Paramount’s Great America in Santa Clara, California never meant for the name of their ride to be taken literally. Unfortunately, on August 23, 1999, a 12-year-old boy from Sunnyvale, California, named Joshua Smurphat slipped out of the ride’s safety harness and fell 207 feet. The boy, who suffered from mental and physical disabilities, was killed when he hit the ground. But until that day, no one in the ride’s history had been harmed.
M&D's Tsunami, 2016
In 2016, Lanarkshire theme park M&D’s Tsunami rollercoaster was shut down after five of the gondolas came off the rails during a curvy inversion that resulted in the ride crashing to the ground. Six passengers suffered serious injuries. Two others were critically injured, and there was one passenger with only minor injuries. Ironically, the ride had been shut down earlier that day because of an electrical fault but was deemed safe to ride later. That was clearly not the case.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, 2003
On September 5, 2003, passengers aboard a locomotive were traveling through a dark tunnel on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disneyland. Suddenly, the train derailed and injured ten passengers ages 9 through 47. One of the worst injuries included broken ribs, face and chest injuries. Unfortunately, it took over an hour to get all the riders out of the train car and an eleventh passenger, who was 22 at the time, passed away.
Six Flags' Texas Giant, 2013
On July 19, 2013, 52-year-old Rosa Ayala-Goana fell 75 feet to her death while riding the Texas Giant roller coaster. She had been ejected from her seat while enjoying the popular Six Flags ride. Witnesses claimed the woman had concerns because her restraints only clicked once while everyone else’s restraints on the ride clicked three times. As a result of her tragic and fatal accident, Six Flags decided to install seat belts on the ride.
Ghost Train at Luna Park Sydney, 1979
On June 9, 1979, a fire broke out on the Sydney Ghost Train at Luna Park in Milsons Point, New South Wales, Australia. Unfortunately, the firefighters didn’t get to the scene in time and the insufficient amount of staff on the ride led to the fire destroying the ride. Investigators discovered that low water pressure and insufficient fire hose systems were also the reason six kids and one adult were killed in this horrible accident.
Verruckt Water Slide, 2016
The Verruckt water slide in Schlitterbahn Kansas City water park in Kansas City, Kansas, was considered the world’s tallest water slide when the park opened its doors in 2014. But on August 7, 2016, the raft 10-year-old Caleb Schwab was on went airborne as it reached the ride’s second hill and hit a metal support beam. Caleb was decapitated and died. He was the son of Kansas state representative Scott Schwab.
Mind Scrambler, 2007
In 2007, Gabriela Garin was riding on the Mind Scrambler Ride at Rye Playland Amusement Park in Long Island, New York. At the time, the 21-year-old was supposed to be running the ride, but she wanted to give it a try, so she had another employee cover for her. Unfortunately, it ended up being her final shift as she got thrown from her car. Ironically, she had worked on the ride in 2004 when a little girl died on it.
The Deby Racer, 1911
The Derby Racer wooden roller coaster was built in Massachusetts in 1911 and it was actually a twin racer that allowed passengers to ride side-by-side trains. But on two separate occasions, riders got flung from the ride itself. In those days, things like seat belts and support bars weren’t considered a high priority and neither were safety inspections and restrictions. So that year, some riders got on the coaster to have a good time and lost their lives.
Splash Canyon at Drayton Manor, 2017
11-year-old Evha Jannath was enjoying a school field trip to Drayton Manor in Tamworth, Staffordshire, on May 9, 2017. But she was reportedly unsupervised when she went on the Splash Canyon rapids ride and was hurled into the water. Jannath had fallen off the boat when it hit a barrier. Unfortunately, the little girl didn’t know how to swim, so she drowned in the water below. Witnesses claimed that she had been standing and reaching towards the water when the accident happened.
Six Flags' Skyway, 1978
On July 26, 1978, the Skyway ride’s support beam at the Six Flags in Missouri broke and sent the car hurling to the ground. 10-year-old Trisha Weeks, 15-year-old Kristen Johnson, and 25-year-old Clark Freeman Johnson were killed. 12-year-old Jennine Weeks was the fourth passenger who was severely injured, but not killed, when the gondola ride came crashing down 70 feet. 60 other passengers were stuck in the other cars until helped arrived.
Waterworld USA, 1997
On June 2, 1997, 12 Napa High School seniors took a trip to Waterworld USA in Concord, California, and were planning a dangerous stunt as they ran up to the 40-foot tower and tried to get on the slide at the same time. This was a safety hazard and the lifeguards tried to stop them but they were too late. Their combined weight caused the slide to collapse. This led to 32 injuries as the students tumbled 30 feet to the ground. A 17-year-old girl who suffered severe head and chest injuries passed away as a result.
Siam Park, 2007
In 2007, six passengers visiting Siam Park in Thailand got on a flume ride that went horribly wrong. The ride was coming down from the top when it went off the hill and came falling 66 feet. Five people were injured and one woman was killed. Investigators learned that the cause of the accident was due to a sudden power loss. Without power, the water pump that normally kept the coaster car on the track didn’t turn on and led to deadly consequences.
Human Catapult, 2013
In 2013, 19-year-old Dino Yankov was fired from a medieval catapult at the Middle Moor Water Park in Somerset. It was supposed to be a stunt for the Oxford Stunt Factory, a group of adventurers and extreme sports pioneers. But unfortunately, the stunt turned to tragedy when Yankov missed the safety net and crashed violently into the ground. He was airlifted to the nearest hospital but his spinal injuries were too severed and he died hours after the stunt. The young man had recently moved from Plovdiv, Bulgaria to England for a higher education.
Perilous Plunge, 2001
In 2001, 40-year-old Lori Mason-Larez suffered life-threatening injuries when she fell 100 feet from the Perilous Plunge roller coaster ride at Knotts Berry Farm. Investigators concluded that the fall was caused by a restraint failure despite the fact that her lap bar and seat belt were both secured at the time of the accident. The issue was caused because the woman was reportedly plus-sized and the restraints weren’t strong enough to keep her in place during the rough ride.
Chimera Roller Coaster, 2019
In 2019, the Chimera roller coaster in Mexico City’s Feria de Chapultepec suffered a mishap when one of the ride’s carriages hit a metal structure and came off the track. Two women were injured and two more people, an 18-year-old and a 21-year-old, were killed when they all came tumbling down. The park immediately shut down and launched an investigation that determined that a mechanical problem was to blame for the terrible accident.
Taitaishan Theme Park in Shanxi, China, 2020
On October 2, 2020, a fire broke out at the Taitaishan Theme Park in Shanxi, China in what was the first of an eight-day national holiday in the country. The fire reportedly took out an exhibition hall full of snow sculptures and ice lanterns, and 15 people sustained injuries and had to be rushed to the hospital. 13 others were not so lucky and did not survive. The incident forced the Ministry of Emergency Management to ask that local authorities examine all tourist spots so that something like this doesn’t happen again.
Cedar Point Amusement Park, 2021
In 2021, a woman was waiting in line for the popular Top Thrill Dragster roller coaster at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio when a metal object flew from the ride and struck her in the head. The park’s EMS teams and guests attempted to help the woman, who was rushed to the hospital. An investigation revealed that the 420-foot-tall ride had undergone inspection by the Department of Agriculture back in May 2021 and no problems were reported.
World Carnival Ferris Wheel, 2007
When five family members got on a Ferris wheel at the World Carnival in South Korea in 2007, they didn’t realize that their family would be dealt a tragic blow. It happened when the car they were on overturned, causing the five people onboard to fall to their deaths. Among them was a 7-year-old boy and a 68-year-old woman. A 28-year-old woman was treated at the hospital but could not be saved. Two other people were also flung from the Ferris wheel car but managed to grab onto the handholds and didn’t suffer any injuries.
Sizzler Ride, 2007
7-year-old Mariscal Alvarado and his mother got on the Sizzler ride at the Expo Center in Hope, Arkansas in 2007. The boy had reportedly been moving around after the ride’s door opened suddenly. Ride operator Dewayne Mathis claimed: "The little boy was going to get up or something, because the door come open and he was moving around, and he got up and it slung them back. His mama tried to drag him back in, and this woman told me to shut down the machine, and, when I shut it down, both of them flew out." The boy and his mom were taken to a nearby hospital, but he did not survive.
Disneyland Paris Tower of Terror, 2011
In 2011, 12-year-old Bautista Riera experienced the true meaning of terror when he went on the Tower of Terror ride at Disneyland in Paris, France. Shortly after the ride ended, he told his uncle that he was feeling lousy. Then he experienced paralysis followed by respiratory arrest. It turns out that he had suffered bone and spine contusion. And he wasn’t the only kid to get injured on this ride. 16-year-old Leanne Deacon was on the Tower of Terror at Disney World when she experienced a brain hemorrhage.
The Fort Fun Freak Accident, 2017
In 2017, a 12-year-old boy was visiting the Fort Fun amusement park 70 miles west of Dusseldorf in Sauerland, Germany. The kid was on a gravity-driven alpine coaster where bobsled-like cars run down a hill on tracks. Riders are responsible for doing their own brakes using a handle on the side of the car. But the boy's foot got caught between the tracks and the sled and his leg was ripped apart mid-calf. The boy was immediately taken to the hospital and despite the outcome, he survived.
Formosa Fun Coast Explosion, 2015
On June 27, 2015, the staff at Formosa Fun Coast in Taiwan threw a coordinated outdoor color powder party by releasing colored corn starch powder into the air. But an unexpected reaction led to the combustion of the powder which lit up onto the unsuspecting crowd of thousands of guests. Not only was the stage area engulfed by fire that led to serious burns, but some of the guests suffered respiratory ailments when they breathed the powder in. All in all, there were 496 injuries and 15 deaths.
The Fabbri Booster, 2007
The Fabbri Booster at the Fête des Loges in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France was a pendulum ride with a serious problem when one of the gondolas broke loose and came crashing violently to the ground. Two people suffered serious injuries and tragically, a father and son lost their lives. The others on the Fabbri Booster were okay but had to remain in the air until rescue teams arrived to get them to safety.
Ohio State Fair Incident, 2017
18-year-old Tyler Jarrell was killed in 2017 when the Fire Ball ride at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, Ohio, experienced a glitch and started to fall apart. Jarrell and seven other passengers were thrown in the air. Three suffered critical injuries. When the ride operator on the ground saw what was happening, he hit the emergency stop button, which sent more people flying 30 feet in the air. Ironically, the ride had reportedly cleared an inspection that same day.
Willard’s Whizzer, 1980
A Willard’s Whizzer roller coaster train smashed right into another one at Marriott’s Great American Amusement Park in California in 1980. Eight passengers and a park worker were injured as a result, but 13-year-old Kyle Foss was hurled from the car where he crash landed on some rocks and died. But some eyewitnesses claim Foss was about to get on the ride when he got run over by the train. Two other passengers also flew off the ride but were cushioned by the pool’s water.
Batman Six Flags, 2008
In 2008, an unidentified 17-year-old from Columbia, South Carolina, was decapitated by the Batman roller coaster ride at Six Flags in Georgia. It turns out that the teen had scaled a fence into a restricted area. Authorities had no idea why he did what he did. But while he was in this area, the roller coaster passed by at 50 mph and struck him. The force was so strong that it took his head off. Meanwhile, his friends who had also climbed the 6-foot fences into the restricted area were not harmed.
Big Dipper at Krug Park, 1930
On July 24, 1930, the Big Dipper roller coaster ride at Krug Park in Omaha, Nebraska had a loose bolt that the ride’s operators were unaware of until it was too late. Four cars came crashing to the ground, injuring 19 people and killing four others who had gotten pinned under the car when it fell. This was considered the most tragic roller coaster accident at that time and the park ended up closing ten years later. Then Omaha passed an ordinance that banned roller coaster rides in their city.
Discovery at Kankaria Theme Park, 2019
In 2019, the Discovery Pendulum ride at the Kankaria Amusement Park in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in India injured 15 passengers and killed two people when the main column holding the riders snapped. Both the structure and the riders came crashing to the ground. The ride was supposed to suspend the riders off the ground and swing them back and forth. But the structural failure turned what was supposed to be a fun day into a tragedy.
In 1999, a 17-year-old girl named Nadine Caban lost her life while riding the Himalaya amusement park ride on Coney Island. The ride malfunctioned and ejected the teen from her seat. She was pinned between one of the cars and the track. The ride’s cars had started convulsing violently and it was one of those jolts that sent her to her death. Eight other passengers suffered some minor injuries but were released at the scene.
Ladybug Coaster, 2005
In 2005, 18-year-old Stephen Gary was working at the Adventureland Amusement Park in Farmingdale, NY. It was supposed to be a summer job, but it ended up being his last job when he was run over by a Ladybug Coaster two-person car that he was operating. According to an unidentified employee, no one was on the ride, but when Gary leaned over the elevated track, the ride struck him and pinned his upper torso under the car. Unfortunately, he did not survive.
Tennessee Ferris Wheel, 2016
In 2016, three girls, ages 6, 10, and 16, were riding on a Ferris wheel basket at the Tennessee County Fair. Now usually, Ferris wheels aren’t the most terrifying rides at a theme park. In fact, they’re generally safe. But that day, the girls’ basket overturned approximately 90 degrees because of a mechanical failure. Two of the girls inside suffered serious injuries when they fell out, and one of them had a traumatic brain injury.
Flight Commander, 1991
On June 9, 1991, 32-year-old Candy Taylor got onboard the Flight Commander ride at Kings Island Amusement Park in Kings Mills, Ohio, not realizing it would be her last ride ever. During the ride’s operation, she fell off and was killed. But she wasn’t the only one that lost her life that day. In a tragic twist of fate, two 20-year-old men also lost their lives when they were electrocuted in a pond on the property.
Son of Beast, 2006 and 2009
On July 9, 2006, the train of the Son of Beast wooden roller coaster ride at King’s Island in Mason, Ohio, jolted as it passed through a dip in the track. 27 people suffered injuries to their heads and necks and were rushed to the hospital. And on June 16, 2009, a woman had a blood vessel burst in her brain after suffering a head injury on the ride. That same year, the Son of Beast ride was retired.
Thunder River Rapids, 2016
On October 25, 2016, the Thunder River Rapids Ride at Dreamsworld Theme Park in Australia’s Gold Coast broke down. The water level dropped and trapped 6 people on a raft held only by support rails towards the conveyor’s backend. Then another raft containing 6 people crashed into their raft causing both rafts to pivot up. The first raft then fell to a level position while the second raft landed in a vertical position, trapping some passengers near the conveyor while others fell. Four people died that day but two children managed to get to safety.
Roger Rabbit Cartoon Spin, 2000
In September 2000, a 4-year-old boy named Brandon Zucker was riding the Roger Rabbit Cartoon Spin ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Unfortunately, he fell from the ride and got dragged about 10 feet before ending up trapped underneath another car. He suffered severe internal injuries including a torn liver, spleen and diaphragm. He also suffered brain damage when his heart stopped. Zucker’s road to recovery was difficult and the physical damage of his accident lingered. Sadly in 2009, the boy, who was 13 at the time, had difficulty breathing. He was later taken to the hospital where he passed away.
In April 2004, 16-year-old Hayley Williams fell off the Hydro ride at Oakwood Theme Park in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Investigators discovered that the attendants had failed to inspect her lap bar to make sure it was secure before the boats took off. So when Williams’ boat got to the top to make its 85-degree fall, the teen fell 100 feet. Rescuers immediately pulled her out of the water, but she had too many life-threatening injuries and did not survive.
On June 14, 1986, the wheel assembly of the fourth car of the Mindbender roller coaster ride at Galaxyland Amusement Park in Alberta, Canada came off the track. This caused the car to swerve from side to side. Then the lap bar restraints accidentally unlocked causing four passengers to fall on the hard floor. But the nightmare didn’t end there. The train tried to complete the final loop but couldn’t. Instead, it rolled back and crashed into a pillar. Three of the passengers died and the surviving rider suffered permanent injuries.
Fujin Raijin, 2007
On May 5, 2007, an axle broke on the Fujin Raijin roller coaster in Japan. This caused the ride to come off the track and lean out. While riding the coaster, a woman was immediately slammed against the handrail, but she wasn’t the only one who was injured. 19 people were harmed in the accident and a 19-year-old college student was killed. When investigators looked into the accident, they discovered that the roller coaster’s axles hadn’t been replaced in several years or inspected. The park eventually closed for good in 2009.
On June 2, 2015, the Smiler roller coaster at Alton Towers in Staffordshire, United Kingdom, crashed against a test train. Two of the riders in the front row had to have their legs amputated and three other riders were badly injured. Six other riders were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Investigators discovered that the roller coaster stopped when it detected the other train, but the ride operator thought it was a malfunction and overrode the safety protocols so the ride would continue. This is what sadly led to the horrible accident.
Six Flags’ Haunted Castle, 1984
On May 12, 1984, a fire started at 6:35 pm in the Haunted Castle attraction at Six Flags in New Jersey. The flames spread very quickly because of the air conditioning system in the building. Unfortunately, there were 29 people inside and the castle had no fire and smoke detectors or even a sprinkler system. So, when a 14-year-old boy reportedly used a lighter to light the path in front of him, he ignited the fire that sent 8 teenagers to their grave.
Space Journey, 2010
On June 29, 2010, ten people were injured in China’s Space Journey Ride at Ecoventure Valley Theme Park. The riders were trapped when the ride collapsed. The survivors claimed there was a burnt smell in the air and that the power cut off. When the rescue team arrived, they claimed some of the riders had lost consciousness. Unfortunately, six riders lost their lives. But the theme park reportedly kept what happened very hush-hush that day to avoid alarming other guests.
The Big Dipper, 1972
On May 30, 1972, a train was being hoisted to the Big Dipper at Battersea Park. Suddenly, the ride’s start broke which caused the train to roll back. Then the rollback brakes malfunctioned, so the train kept speeding backwards until the carriage in the rear derailed and crashed against a barrier and ultimately crashed on top of two other carriages. There were 13 injuries that day as well as two teen boys and an 8-year-old girl who died on the scene. Two other kids passed away later on from their injuries.