About two billion people will visit amusement parks this year to experience the thrilling rides they offer, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). Millions of guests will visit the 400 theme parks and attractions in the U.S. alone, generating about $55 billion. But having fun is a serious business. Most of the adventurers will have an amazing time but some will get hurt. The number of significant incidents has risen in most of America’s major theme parks, the Amusement Safety Organization reports.
Action Park opened one of the first wave pools in the country in 1978. On opening day, it was estimated approximately 100 swimmers had to be rescued from the wave pool. Many publications have called the theme park the “most dangerous ever.” Some of its nicknames are “Accident Park” and “Class Action Park.” At least six people have died in separate incidents before the park was closed in 1996 (It reopened in 1998 under a different name, and it recently took its old name back). A documentary reported 110 injuries in just one year, including 45 head injuries and 10 fractures.
At least six different and major accidents were reported at RyePlayland since 1938, according to several news sources, including The New York Times. More recently, two deadly incidents took place in 2004 and in 2005. Two 7-year-old girls died; one after being thrown from a ride and the other in a water ride. In 2007, a supervisor died. She was on a ride without wearing a seat belt. In 1988, an 8-year-old girl choked to death on chewing gum after it became lodged in her throat while she was riding the Dragon roller coaster, according to RideAccidents.
Six Flags in New Jersey, Georgia, and Kentucky often appear on lists that rank the worst amusement park rides in history. Parks have had to shut down many rides due to accidents. Eight people died at Six Flags Great Adventure Park in Jackson Township, New Jersey in 1984 when a fire broke out. In 2008, a 17-year-old boy was decapitated by a ride in the park in Atlanta while trying to recover his lost hat. In Kentucky the previous year, as a ride ascended, a cable broke and hit several girls in the face and torso. One them lost her feet (which were later reattached).
The most famous tragic day occurred in 1991. A man fell into a pond and the two people, who tried to rescue him, died after suffering an electric shock. On the same day, a person fell from a ride and died after hitting the ground. Two years ago Banshee, the park's newest roller coaster, briefly stopped on a lift hill with riders. No one has figured out why but the staff says it did not malfunction.
Sea World is a different kind of theme park. Visitors can snorkel with fish and interact with dolphins and monkeys. However, this also increases the risk for accidents. Ranker.com has compiled a list of the most horrible incidents to ever happen there – a killer whale beached herself and a bull orca drowned her trainer (and this is just one incident where orcas attacked the trainers). Several employees have sued the park for personal injuries.
A person broke two ribs while riding Roman Rapids at Bush Gardens Williamsburg. The fractures occurred when the raft struck the wall near water jets and water guns, according to Theme Park Insider. In 2005, a power outage shut down the rides at Busch Gardens Williamsburg for several hours. At least six other accidents were reported between 2006 and 2010, according to the Amusement Safety Organization.
There have been at least 21 reported incidents, some of which were deadly, in Disney Parks. While many of them have taken place in the park in Paris, the one near Orlando, Florida is not 100 percent safe. A 48-year-old woman was found unconscious after riding the Space Mountain roller coaster; a cast member was struck by a go-kart; two monorail trains collided, killing one person; water ride malfunctions have also been reported.
The best known incident, largely because of which Waterworld California in Concord is considered dangerous, killed one girl and injured 32 other teens, according to The Seattle Times. As many as 30 students leaped onto the twisting, spiraling slide, when only one person is usually allowed. A near-death waterslide accident in 2012 has also been reported. In 2009, news channels reported a drowning, the first in the park’s history.
A double amputee Iraq veteran was killed during a superman-themed ride, the Ride of Steel, at Darien Lake accident in 2011. He was thrown from the roller coaster because the safety barriers were not designed for amputees. In an incident soon after the park opened in 1999, a man was also thrown out but was not severely injured. Other minor accidents have also been reported by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA).
A 6-year-old boy died in 1989 on what is actually a very slow ride – Puff the Little Fire Dragon. He slipped out of the restraints and fell. He was uninjured but he decided to climb back on when the moving car hit him in the head, killing him on the spot. Desert News has reported at least three deadly accidents on the park’s wooden roller coaster.