U.S. Theme Parks with the Most Deaths

final destination theme park

I love roller coasters. LOVE ‘EM! Theme parks are just the most fun. And a big part of the fun is the controlled danger of the rides and attractions. Almost any accident in a ride is due to passenger error, breaking rules to hop a fence or stand up. Theme parks aren’t exactly travelling carnivals and have a much better maintenance record. That said, of course accidents have to happen. Here’s some theme parks that had some bad accidents—lethal ones. I am not counting any incidents where someone died in the park but the coroner determined it was due to natural causes. Let’s get morbid.

UPDATED 9/14/15 2:20pm PST to add Haunted House accident at Six Flags Great Adventure.

BUSCH GARDENS WILLIAMSBURG

big bad wolf roller coaster

Located a bit north of Virginia Beach, Virginia, this theme park opened in 1975 next to Anheuser-Busch’s brewery and was based on European countries.

  • May 2, 1993. A man was struck in the head by the Big Bad Wolf suspended roller coaster while supposedly trying to uncover a camera specifically placed to monitor a portion of the coaster’s track. He died the next day.

Total deaths: 1

CEDAR POINT

Opened in 1870 on Lake Erie, the park is well known for its roller coasters, having 18 of them, the second most of any U.S. theme park.

  • August 13, 2015. A 45-year-old man was killed by the Raptor roller coaster after going into the ride’s restricted area to retrieve a dropped cellphone.

Total deaths: 1

DOLLYWOOD

In 1985, Dolly Parton purchased a modest park in Tennessee that had opened in 1971 and it became themed around her.

  • April 14, 2004. A female passenger fell out of one of the Dollywood Express train’s carriages while it was in motion. An investigation determined that a drink was spilled on the woman, who then lost her balance and fell out of the train.

Total deaths: 1

KINGS DOMINION

Opened in 1975 with over 60 rides, this is a popular Northern Virginia theme park.

  • August 23, 1999. A 20-year-old man fell from his safety restraints on the Shockwave roller coaster to his death.

Total deaths: 1

KNOTT’S BERRY FARM

perilous plunge

The 13th most visited park in the U.S., it opened in 1973 and is owned by Cedar. In 1983, it began using Snoopy and other Peanuts characters.

  • September 21, 2001. A 40-year-old woman fell out of the Perilous Plunge boat when it plunged and died of multiple blunt force trauma. The lap bar was still down and locked when it came into the station.

Total deaths: 1

MICHIGAN’S ADVENTURE

The largest park in Michigan, it opened back in 1956 as Deer Park and was purchased by Cedar in 2001.

  • June 30, 2000. A 38-year-old woman fell out of the Zach’s Zoomer ride and was critically injured, after turning to photograph her relatives in the cars behind her.

Total deaths: 1

SILVER DOLLAR CITY

A theme park near Branson, Missouri that opened in 1960 and is 1880s-themed.

  • July 9, 1980. A 23-year-old man was killed while riding the Fire in the Hole roller coaster. A train on the roller coaster was accidentally switched to a maintenance track and storage area, which had low-hanging structures across the track. The passenger’s head struck one of these structures, killing him.

Total deaths: 1

WORLDS OF FUN

Worlds of Fun opened in 1973 in Kansas City and is owned by Cedar.

  • June 30, 1995. A 14-year-old girl fell about 25 feet from the Timber Wolf roller coaster and died. Park officials say she was trying to change seats but the family disputed this.

Total deaths: 1

SIX FLAGS GREAT AMERICA

ragin cajun roller coaster

Six Flags Great America is in the Chicago metro area. It was formed in 1976 as Marriott’s Great Adventure and Six Flags purchased it and took over in 1984.

  • May 29, 2004. A 52-year-old ride mechanic was killed by a roller-coaster car on the Ragin’ Cajun as he attempted to cross the tracks.

Total deaths: 1

SIX FLAGS NEW ENGLAND

Riverside Park opened in Agawam, Massachusetts back in 1870, tying for the oldest park on this list. Six Flags purchased it in 1998 and renamed it Six Flags New England in 2000.

  • May 1, 2004. A 53-year-old man fell out of his coaster seat on Superman: Ride of Steel during the last turn and was killed. He was a bit overweight and it caused his T-bar safety harness not to close properly.

Total deaths: 1

SIX FLAGS NEW ORLEANS

Six Flags opened this as a brand new theme park in 2002 but after Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage in 2005, Six Flags determined it wasn’t worth repairing and it has been abandoned for a decade now.

  • July 10, 2003. A 52-year-old grandmother was strapping her 4-year-old grandson in when the Joker’s Jukebox ride started up. She died from blunt-force internal injuries after being struck by a ride vehicle. It was determined there was a blind spot that the ride operator hadn’t been able to see.

Total deaths: 1

WATERWORLD CALIFORNIA

This water park in Concord, California features 25 water slides and opened in 1995.

  • June 2, 1997. A group of 33 high school seniors from a school in Napa attempted to break a school record for the most riders on the slide at one time. The riders’ weight was more than three times the slide’s maximum capacity, causing a section of the slide to collapse. A 17-year-old student died due to injuries.

Total deaths: 1

ELITCH GARDENS

elitch gardens rainbow

A theme park in downtown Denver, Colorado that originally opened in 1994. It was owned by Six Flags from 1999 through 2006 but is now operated by CNL Lifestyle Properties.

  • May 2002, a 28-year-old man with Down syndrome opened his seat restraints and stood while the Rainbow ride was in motion, subsequently falling to his death.
  • August 1997. A ride operator suffered a fatal fall from the three-story Sidewinder roller coaster platform.

Total deaths: 2

SEAWORLD ORLANDO

Opened near Orlando, Florida in 1973, this park is the 10th most visited in the U.S.

  • July 6, 1999. A 27-year-old homeless man was found naked in the pool draped over the back of the killer whale named Tilikum. The man had died of hypothermia. He had visited SeaWorld the previous day, stayed after the park closed, and evaded security to enter the Orca tank.
  • February 24, 2010. Dawn Brancheau, a 40-year-old trainer was dragged underwater by Tilikum and died from drowning and traumatic injuries including having her scalp ripped off.

Total deaths: 2

SIX FLAGS OVER GEORGIA

Six Flags opened this theme park back in 1967 as their second park ever after the success of their first park in Arlington, Texas.

  • May 26, 2002. A 58-year-old Six Flags foreman was struck in the head and killed by the dangling legs of a passenger on Batman: The Ride after he wandered into the ride’s path after entering a locked, no-access area during the ride’s operation.
  • June 28, 2008. A 17-year-old man was decapitated by the passing Batman: The Ride train after he climbed over two six-foot fences and entered a restricted area. Some reports say he was looking for his hat, others say he was trying to touch the roller coaster and still more say he was looking for a shortcut exit out of the park.

Total deaths: 2

SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS

The first Six Flags park opened in 1961, about 15 miles west of Dallas. It is managed by Six Flags but is actually owned by about 120 limited partners.

  • March 21, 1999. A 28-year-old woman died, and 10 other guests were injured, when the Roaring Rapids raft they were on overturned in 2–3 feet of water due to sudden deflation of the air chambers that support the raft.
  • July 19, 2013. A 52-year-old woman fell 75 feet to her death while riding the Texas Giant roller coaster. Reports were inconclusive as to whether her safety harness had not been secured or if it came undone.

Total deaths: 2

KINGS ISLAND

kings island eiffel tower

A large theme park near Cincinatti, Ohio, this park features over 80 rides and was opened in 1972.

  • July 24, 1976. A lion mauled a 20-year-old park employee in the Lion Country Safari area to death. He had left his protected vehicle for unknown reasons.
  • June 9, 1991. A severely intoxicated 32-year-old woman fell out of the Flight Commander ride and died. An investigation discovered she had disregarded proper safety procedures prior to launch.
  • May 13, 1983. A 17-year-old boy was attending a graduation party with his classmates when he fell to his death down the elevator shaft of the Eiffel Tower. He had climbed a large fence and attempted to jump on top of the rising elevator.

Total deaths: 3

CALIFORNIA’S GREAT AMERICA

A modest park in Santa Clara, California, the park opened in 1976 as one of Marriott’s theme parks but was purchased by Cedar in 2006. It’s biggest claim to fame was being used as the setting for Beverly Hills Cop III.

  • September 7, 1998. A man was killed by the dangling leg of a woman riding Top Gun. He only knew Spanish, so could not read the park’s warning signs and entered a fenced, off-limits area under the ride to retrieve his hat. The woman broke her leg.
  • July 12, 2007. A four-year-old boy drowned in a two-foot deep area of the Great Barrier Reef wave pool.
  • 1989. Two boys intentionally jumped out of the Logger’s Run log flume ride. One died and the other fell safely onto an emergency platform.
  • March 29, 1980. Two Willard’s Whizzer trains collided, killing a 14-year-old boy who was ejected from the ride and landed on rocks below.

Total deaths: 4

SIX FLAGS MAGIC MOUNTAIN

Magic Mountain opened in 1971 just north of California and Six Flags purchased it in 1976, renaming it. It boasts the most roller coasters of a single amusement park: 19.

  • 1978. A 20-year-old woman died after falling out of the Colossus roller coaster. The lap bar had been locked but her obesity caused it to spring loose during the ride.
  • February 5, 1978. A pair of newlyweds rocked their gondola car on Eagles Flight traveling the El Dorado course and it detached and fell 50 feet to the ground. The husband was killed.
  • August 30, 2008. A 20-year-old man was hospitalized after being hit by the Ninja roller coaster train and knocked unconscious when he allegedly climbed multiple security fences to retrieve a hat. He was pronounced dead at the hospital due to blunt force trauma.
  • May 30, 1996. An employee was killed while crossing the tracks in the Revolution roller coaster’s station. She slipped and fell into a shallow pit beneath the tracks and was struck by a train that was pulling into the station.
  • April 9, 2004. A 21-year-old employee died after being struck by the Scream roller coaster while underneath the track during a test run.

Total deaths: 5

SIX FLAGS ST. LOUIS

rail blazer

This park opened in 1971 as the third park under the Six Flags banner and the first to be 100% owned by them.

  • July 1984, a 46-year-old woman was riding the Rail Blazer roller coaster when she was flung from the ride and fell 20 feet to her death. At the time it was a stand-up roller coaster but following the accident, it was converted to a sit-down ride.
  • July 26, 1978, three people died when their Skyway gondola fell from the cable.

Total deaths: 5

 ACTION PARK

Action Park is a crazy water-based theme park in New Jersey that’s infamous for its dangerous attractions like a water slide with a loop, an American Gladiators-themed obstacle/jousting course and more. They’ve had their fair share of accidents ever since opening in 1978.

  • July 24, 1982. A 15-year-old boy drowned in the Tidal Wave Pool.
  • August 27, 1984. A 20-year old man drowned in the Tidal Wave Pool.
  • July 19, 1987. An 18-year-old drowned in the Tidal Wave Pool.
  • July 8, 1980. A 19-year old employee went on their Alpine Slide (a concrete luge-type track that went down a ski mountain and had a sled with wheels) and his car jumped the track. He hit a rock with his head, killing him instantly.
  • August 1, 1982. A 27-year-old man was floating down the course on the Kayak Experience. His kayak flipped so he got out to right it and stepped on a grate that was in contact with live wiring that kept the underwater fans that moved the river. He suffered a massive electric shock, went into cardiac arrest and died.
  • 1984. A visitor used the Tarzan Swing, plunged into the water and the shock of the cold water (50-60° F) gave him a lethal heart attack.

Total deaths: 6

DISNEY WORLD

As the largest theme park in the world with the highest attendance, it’s pretty much just playing the odds that there will be accidents. Florida’s House of the Mouse has had its fair share of them since it opened back in 1971.

  • November 27, 2007. A 63-year-old employee died from a brain injury after she was hit by a Primeval Whirl ride vehicle, after falling from a restricted area of the ride platform.
  • March 13, 2011. A 52-year-old employee sustained head injuries while working on the Primeval Whirl ride and died at the hospital a short time later.
  • August 17, 2009. A 30-year-old performer died after injuring his head while rehearsing a tumbling roll for the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.
  • February 11, 2004. A 38-year-old employee dressed as Pluto was killed when he was run over by the Beauty and the Beast float in the Share a Dream Come True Parade.
  • August 11, 1977, a 4-year-old boy climbed the fence and drowned in the moat surrounding Cinderella’s Castle.
  • August 6, 2009. A 47-year-old employee playing the role of a pirate in the Captain Jack’s Pirate Tutorial show slipped on a puddle on the stage and hit his head on a wall. It led to broken vertebrae and 55 stitches in his head. He died 4 days later from complications.
  • February 14, 1999. A 65-year-old part-time custodian was killed when he fell off a Skyway gondola. Employees didn’t realize he was cleaning it, turned the ride on and pushed up off a platform.
  • November 5, 2000, a 37-year-old man felt ill on Splash Mountain and tried to exit the moving ride to get to an emergency exit but was struck by the next ride and killed.

Total deaths: 8

SIX FLAGS GREAT ADVENTURE

Six Flags Great Adventure opened in 1974 in New Jersey and is situated between New York and Philadelphia, bringing in a healthy attendance throughout the summer.

  • June 17, 1987. A 19-year-old woman died after falling from the Lightnin’ Loops shuttle loop roller coaster. Her harness was found not to be attached and the employee had missed it.
  • August 16, 1981. A 20-year-old park employee fell to his death from the Rolling Thunder roller coaster during a routine test run. He had not pulled the safety bar down to the lock position.
  • May 11, 1984. Eight teenage visitors were trapped in the Haunted House attraction and lost their lives when the structure was destroyed by fire. Another boy had put out a cigarette on the wall, resulting in arson.

Total deaths: 10

DISNEYLAND

rivers of america

Disneyland has been around even longer than Disney World and is so popular that of course there have been incidents.

  • April 22, 2003, a 36-year-old stage technician fell 60 feet from a catwalk in the Hyperion Theater. He never regained consciousness and died a month later.
  • July 8, 1974. An 18-year-old employee was crushed to death between a revolving wall and a stationary platform inside the America Sings attraction. She was standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • September 5, 2003. A 22-year-old man died after suffering severe blunt force trauma and extensive internal bleeding in a derailment of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster that also injured 10 other riders.
  • December 24, 1998. A 33-year old man died of a head injury. A heavy metal cleat fastened to the hull of the Sailing Ship Columbia tore loose, striking one employee and two park guests. The park had replaced the inelastic rope that should have been used with a nylon one that stretched and eventually tore free and snapped wildly.
  • January 3, 1984. A 48-year-old woman was killed when she was thrown from a Matterhorn Bobsled car and struck by the next oncoming bobsled. For some reason, her seatbelt hadn’t been buckled.
  • June 1966. A 19-year-old man was killed while attempting to sneak into the park by climbing onto the Monorail track. He was hit by the train and dragged under it for 30 to 40 feet.
  • August 1967. A 17-year-old boy was killed while jumping between two moving PeopleMover cars as the ride was passing through a tunnel. He was crushed by the next group of cars.
  • June 7, 1980. An 18-year-old man was crushed and killed by the PeopleMover while jumping between moving cars.
  • June 1973. An 18-year-old man drowned while attempting to swim across the Rivers of America. He and his 10-year old brother hid on Tom Sawyer’s Island past closing time. Eventually, they wanted to leave but the 10-year old couldn’t swim. The older brother tried to swim across while carrying his brother but drowned halfway across. The younger brother doggy paddled to stay afloat and was rescued by a park worker.
  • June 4, 1983. An 18-year-old man drowned in the Rivers of America while trying to pilot a rubber emergency boat from Tom Sawyer’s Island that he and a friend had stolen from a restricted area of the island.

Total deaths: 10

  • Lamar the Revenger

    What’s that? No Hersheypark deaths? That’s right.

  • Those deaths are indirectly caused by heart disease.

  • Chris Piers

    I only listed accidental deaths. Not any injuries or heart attacks or anything like that.

  • Big Jim

    So there, Ian Malcolm!

  • Martin Dean

    There was a death in Epcot a few years ago on the Mission to Mars ride.

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  • Lani Sarem

    need to update it again…the kid eaten by the alligator at DisneyWorld

  • Lani Sarem

    true…

  • Royal_Blue

    That wasn’t actually at the park. But they can now add the 10 year old boy who died on Verruckt at Schlitterbahn yesterday.

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  • Charlene

    Actually there is one death (possibly two) missing from the Kings Dominion list. You have the shockwave death listed, but there was a rollercoaster death that happened much earlier in the park’s history. On September 11, 1983 a 13 year old boy named Daniel Watkins stood up on the Galaxie rollercoaster. He ended up hitting his head on one of the metal support beams and was killed. The Shockwave rollercoaster replaced the Galaxie and sits in the same spot. There were actually 2 incidents on the Shockwave. The first ended in death but the second was 2 weeks later when a 13 year old boy (strange coincidence) was concerned that he was not properly fastened into his restraints, intentionally slipped out of them as the train was ascending the hill. He jumped onto the maintenance catwalk and escaped serious injury. The only other possible death is the legend of the suicide jump from the Eiffel Tower sometime in the 80’s. I can’t find a reliable source to confirm whether it happened or not, although I remember people talking about it when I was a kid. I lived less than 2 hours from the park growing up.

  • Charlene

    Needless to say I have no plans to ride the new ride that replaced the Shockwave and sits in the same spot. ;)

  • Charlene

    If anyone is interested here is a POV video of the Galaxie.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyIjtEK2KSs