Amusement parks have always provided us with fun games, rides and activities. Gravity defying rides crank up our adrenaline, making us want more and more. As scary as they may be, the odds of us dying on a roller coaster accident is 1 in 300 million; according to the website Ask The Odds. It’s all fun and games until a bolt comes off and we are flying off the rails. At least two deaths are reported every year in the United States relating to rides, while hundreds are injured. Amusement parks are still enjoyed by millions, even while thousands are injured or killed worldwide. It doesn’t stop us from going and spending time with our friends and family.
Sometimes, the accidents are caused due to a mechanical failure while some are caused by human error. Whatever the cause might be, here are 10 of the deadliest roller coaster accidents recorded in history.
1. Mindbender – Alberta, Canada
Located in Alberta, Canada, the Mindbender is part of an indoor attraction at the Galaxyland Amusement Park. The amusement park is built within a shopping mall, making things fun for the locals. The roller coaster, which has three loops, was once considered to be the safest in the world.
The world’s largest triple loop indoor roller coaster was opened in 1986. One year after the majestic ride was enjoyed by thousands, tragedy struck. As the cars were approaching the third loop, car number 4 detached from the rail and went backwards. The car crashed into a concrete pillar, causing four of the passengers to be thrown 25 feet to the ground. Three of them died on impact while one survived with serious injuries. An investigation revealed that the accident was due to a faulty design which caused the bolts to come off.
The accident also prompted designers to include safety belts, anti roll back mechanisms and headrests to the cars to ensure that the passengers survive under such conditions.
2. The Smiler – Staffordshire, England
The Smiler is a roller coaster located in Staffordshire, England. The coaster holds the world record for the most inversions (14). Since its opening, The Smiler has shown signs of failure. In 2013, while the coaster was first being displayed, a mechanical malfunction caused the amusement park to delay its opening for a few months.
In 2015, the on board computer alerted the mechanic on duty about an issue, however, the operator decided to override the warning message and turn the coaster on. This resulted in the car carrying 16 passengers to crash into another car that was empty. Five people were seriously injured from this incident. Two of them were teenage girls who both lost a leg. In the past year, the ride stopped in the middle of a loop, stranding people for nearly half an hour. Even though there are warning signs that the roller coaster can be life threatening, people still find it to be amusing and enjoy visiting the park.
3. Puff The Little Fire Dragon – Farmington, Utah
Puff the little fire dragon is a kiddie ride from the amusement park Lagoon, located in Farmington, Utah. In 1989, 6-year-old Ryan Beckstead was riding it when he made a grave mistake. Little Ryan thought the ride was over and got up, but the ride was just coming around the bend on its first go around. Mistaking that the ride was finished, Ryan got up and tried to climb out of the seat when the ride started moving again. He lost his balance and fell underneath the track.
The car then came back around, hit him on the head and killed him instantly. Ryan’s father Paul tried to run to reach his son but the coaster had already taken his life.
4. Idlewild and SoakZone – Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania
The “Rollo Coaster” is a ride that was built in 1938. The ride does not have seatbelts but instead used lap bars to secure its riders. The wooden roller coaster was being ridden by a 3-year-old and his older brother, when the toddler was thrown out on the last turn of the ride. The boy fell from a height of around 12 feet and is said to have landed on the tracks.
The family of the boy requested the details of the accident as well as his name to be kept private. According to CBS news, the boy was talking to his parents on route to the hospital but a follow-up was never done due to privacy reasons.
5. Batman – Six Flags Over Georgia
Located just outside of Atlanta, Six Flags Over Georgia is a famous hotspot. However, one particular ride called the Batman has caused multiple fatalities within the park.
In 2008, Asia Leeshawn Ferguson of Springfield, South Carolina scaled two six-foot fences and passed signs that said the restricted area was both off-limits and dangerous to visitors. According to reports from witnesses, Ferguson was trying to retrieve his hat which he apparently lost during the ride. Sadly, Ferguson was hit by a speeding train which decapitated him instantly.
In 2012, a 58-year-old worker at the famous attraction was struck by legs hanging down from the cars as the ride passed by. Reports suggest that the foreman was not supposed to be at the spot while the ride was operational. Sadly, the man died upon impact. The rider whose legs hit the man was treated for injuries and sent home.
6. Darien Lake Superman: Ride of Steel – Darien, New York
The “Ride Of Steel” is one of two identical coasters in existence, with the other located in Maryland. War Veteran James Hackemer lost his legs while serving in Iraq. Upon his return, he decided to take his family on a fun trip to the amusement park. The Veteran asked the employees working at the famous attraction if it was safe for him to ride it. They ensured him that the ride was safe and that he would be perfectly fine, however, just before the ride was over, a bump on the rail sent the Veteran plunging down towards his death.
7. Loudoun Castle – Galston, Ayrshire, Scotland
Loudoun Castle, a theme park that opened in 1995, was built around an old castle. On his day off, an 18-year-old employee saw that one of the cars in the popular ride “The Rat” was stuck. It wasn’t unusual for employees to push cars that were stuck in order to free them. But on this particular day, as the off-duty employee tried to help his co-workers, the car moved; pulling him along with it. The 18-year-old was pulled upward as the car moved.
He was dragged towards higher and higher, until he lost his grip and fell to the ground. He died the next day due to his injuries. The amusement park decided to close the ride out of respect for the fallen worker. The park closed down completely in 2010.
8. Schlitterbahn – Kansas City
Though it is not technically a roller coaster, the Verruckt ride at Schlitterbahn in Kansas City, Kansas has made it onto the ‘deadliest’ list. In 2016, the ride became known worldwide because it took the life of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab. Caleb, the son of Scott Schwab; a state rep for the state of Kansas, was on a raft that went astray. The raft collided with a metal bar, which decapitated Caleb.
The park was closed for two days following the incident and a preliminary investigation revealed that Caleb should have been seated in the middle. Since he was sitting in the front of the raft, the weight distribution was uneven; causing the raft to fly off.
9. Revere Beach Derby Racer – Revere, Massachusetts
The Derby Racer was the name given to two wooden roller coasters that operated at Revere Beach from 1911 to 1936. The attraction offered visitors the ability to race alongside each other in a ramp. In its first year of operation, the ride claimed the life of its owner. The owner, who was standing on top of the ride, was giving a safety speech when he lost his balance and fell to his death. The second incident occurred in 1917 when a man who reached for his hat was hit by the passing train. In 1929, a passenger riding the Derby Racer was ejected from his seat and fell to his death. Finally, they decided to close the attraction in 1936.
10. Expoland – Suita, Osaka, Japan
Expoland was an amusement park located in Suita, Osaka, Japan until it closed down in 2009. The Fujin Raijin II was a roller coaster, which was one of the main attractions at the park. In 2007, the ride was responsible for the death of a student and injuring 19 others. The accident was caused by a broken axle, which derailed the train. This caused the passengers to be pinned against a metal bar and dragged for more than 300 yards.
A preliminary investigation revealed that the axle of the train was more than 15 years old. Another accident occurred a month later, which was also caused by worn axles. Expoland was penalized by the government. When the world became aware of the incidents, they lost customers, which lead to its closure in 2009.