America’s Most Dangerous Tourist Attractions

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Tourist attractions come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. Some are silly roadside oddities, like The World’s Biggest Rubber Band Ball. Some are serene works of art, like the Statue of Liberty. Some are natural wonders, like California’s Redwood Forest. Some are utterly harmless — and some are rife with deadly hazards. In this blog entry, our wrongful death attorneys will bring you on a virtual tour of some of America’s most dangerous tourist attractions. If you’re still curious after reading, you can go and take a look for yourself, but be wary. Some tourists never returned from their visits to these four popular travel destinations.

Drown at the Bottom of the Grand Canyon

Located in northern Arizona, the Grand Canyon is one of America’s most famous and beloved tourist attractions, and with good reason.  This vast natural wonder covers 277 miles of land from tip to tip, and yawns up to 18 miles across at its widest points.  Its striking peaks and valleys have been forming for millions of years, and the Pueblo Native Americans revered it as a holy place.

Soaked in history and abundant with beauty, the Grand Canyon proves an irresistible magnet to some five million visitors every year.  Most of them will navigate the rocky cliffs without incident — but some will be less fortunate.

Since the late nineteenth century, at least 600 people have met their doom.  (Some estimates range as high as 685 fatalities.)  The most common causes of death in the Canyon include:

  • Drowning in the Colorado River: 79
  • Environmental Factors (Heat Stroke, Dehydration, Hypothermia): 65
  • Falls: 59
  • Natural Events (Lightning, Rock Slides): 25

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That said, you’re probably safer once you’re in the Canyon than you are during approach: nearly 250 lives have been claimed by aviation accidents, often in small planes and helicopters.

On an even more morbid note, the remote and inherently perilous nature of the Canyon makes it an attractive destination for murderers.  Roughly 25 homicides have been documented…  So far.

Get Bitten By Sharks at New Smyrna Beach

Jaws was released in the summer of 1975.  Ever since then, it’s been hard for beach-goers to dip beneath the waves without hearing those two sinister notes in the backs of their heads.  But while the world’s most notorious (if fictional) great white shark called New England home, the real-life dangers lie hundreds of miles to the south.  Of all the beaches along America’s coast, New Smyrna Beach in Florida’s Volusia County takes the cake for shark attacks.

According to the University of Florida, in 2007 New Smyrna Beach experienced more shark bites than any other place in the world, even beating out well-known hot-spots like South Africa and the Caribbean.  New Smyrna “boasts” an astounding total of 238 attacks to date, with 24 bites in 2008 alone.

To put just how high that bite concentration is into perspective, only about 2,800 shark attacks have been recorded, in total, for the entire world — and that’s dating all the way back to the year 1580.  In other words, New Smyrna Beach represents about 8.5% of all shark attacks. Ever.

Crash Into a Volcano in Hawaii

Associated with Hawaii, volcanoes are one of nature’s most awesome and terrifying spectacles.  The lava they spew can be as hot as 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit — and that’s on a good day.  In some cases, their lava can burn at almost unimaginable temperatures of 2,200 degrees.  

That’s enough of a deterrent to keep most people at a reasonable distance, but some tourists want to get as close as humanly possible.  And what better way to get a close-up, bird’s eye view of an active, lava-spitting volcano than to ride along in a low-altitude helicopter flyover?

Numerous tour companies have records of injuries and fatalities on file with the NTSB, or National Transportation Safety Board.  Over the past three decades, approximately 60 crashes have occurred — 17 of which were fatal.

But, if you don’t have the cash to enlist a private helicopter tour, perhaps you can just make the hike on foot.  Surely, that would be safer than hovering over a spurting cauldron of liquid fire — right?  Not exactly.  From 1992 to 2002, 40 people perished, 45 have been seriously injured, and 53 have experienced minor injuries.

But the lava itself isn’t the only threat.  Other sources of death and injury within Hawaii’s geotourism industry include exposure to scalding steam and toxic gasses (including hydrochloric acid).  Some tourists simply become lost, and gradually succumb to hypothermia or other environmental conditions.

Battle the Bears (and Geysers) of Yellowstone Park

After the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park is probably the most famous and revered natural wonder in the United States.  Spanning from Wyoming to Montana to Idaho, Yellowstone covers five different counties and sprawls across an astonishing 2,219,791 acres of land.

That, quite literally, leaves plenty of room for error.

Yellowstone’s dangers come in a variety of flavors, but the most dreaded is probably its grizzly bears. Approximately a dozen people have been mauled to death over the years, though considering Yellowstone’s annual influx of about two million visitors, the statistical likelihood of dying from a bear attack is minimal.

Then again, the bears aren’t the only hazard to watch out for.  Visitors should also be wary of the park’s famed hot geysers, which have claimed approximately 20 lives since 2000. These geysers can shoot out water at temperatures as high as 250 degrees, while water boils at 212 degrees, and most people set their showers around 100 degrees.

At its best, travel is eye-opening and life-enriching.  Millions of people have fond memories of all of the locations on this list, and most tourists who visit them will be perfectly fine. Nonetheless, it pays to remember that nature cannot be tamed, and a careless mistake could cost you limb or life itself.

Of course, you don’t have to be a tourist to be hurt by a hazardous site.  If you were injured on a dangerous piece of property, you may have a premises liability claim.  To schedule your free, confidential case evaluation, call the law offices of The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000, or contact us online.  We won’t charge a fee unless we win, so call us right away to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer.

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