Memorial Day is nearly upon us and for many people and families that means taking part in outdoor activities to enjoy the first unofficial weekend of summer. While many people may have a backyard BBQ, go on a picnic at the park, or even head down to the shore, still others may consider attending a theme park or a water park for their Memorial Day weekend. However, before you go please consider that amusement parks and waterparks aren’t the injury-free zones that their commercials promote. Rather, serious injuries or even death can occur on water slides and amusement park attracts through no fault of the guest.
Death at “The Happiest Place on Earth”
Since the opening of Disneyland in 1955, 9 guests have been killed by the attractions at the park. Additionally, workers of the park, known as cast members, have been killed in carrying out their day-to-day job duties. One such worker was Deborah Stone who was working as a hostess for the revamped Carousel of Progress attraction, known as America Sings for the 1974 season.
Like the Carousel of Progress, the America Sings attraction rotated several seating areas around a central hub which contained several different stage settings. During one of these rotations changing the stage-area visible to guests, Ms. Stone moved too closely to an area between a permanent, stationary stage wall and a moving seating area wall. She became pinned between these two walls and was tragically crushed to death.
While in the first 7 guest deaths at the park, guest neglect or horseplay contributed, the two most recent deaths occurred despite a lack of any wrongdoing by the park guest. The first incident occurred on Christmas Eve in 1998. Two patrons of the park were queuing to sail on the ship Columbia. While they were waiting, a rope attached to the ship tore its metal cleat from the dock. The cleat flew through the air and struck 2 guests and an employee of the park. The guests were each stuck in the head by the metal cleat. One of the guests was declared brain dead – he passed away two days later when his life support system was disconnected. In 2000 a 4-year-old child was trapped beneath a car in Roger Rabbit Car Toon Spin and suffered an irreversible traumatic brain injury. Also in 2000, at least 1 lawsuit was filed due to injuries sustained on the Space Mountain rollercoaster.
The final injury at Disneyland that we will discuss occurred on the Thunder Mountain rollercoaster. When the ride was about to pass through a narrow section, the bolts that held the left wheel assembly in place failed. The train careened wildly with it eventually running off the tracks. All told, 1 person was killed and 10 more suffered serious injury from the mechanical failure.
Injury and Deaths at Six Flags
While most people do safely enjoy their day at a Disney or Six Flags park, serious injury can occur.
A grisly story from Six Flags in Kentucky illustrates that injuries can happen anywhere. While riding the Superman Tower of Power, a ride which simulates flying by lifting the riders to great heights before dropping them rapidly, a number of cables snapped, became detached and whipped in the wind while the ride was in operation. The riders remarked on their terror as they were whipped with the cables and said that they repeatedly yelled at the operator to stop the ride. Unfortunately the attraction could not be brought to an immediate halt. Then one of the riders remarked that she smelt a burning odor, but she was unaware due to shock that the odor was from a cable severing her feet. The injured girl was rushed to the hospital where additional portions of her legs were amputated. It is tragic that a young girl suffered such an unlikely and catastrophic injury that she will live with for her entire lifetime.
Death has occurred at Six Flags over Texas on the Texas Giant rollercoaster. The old Texas Giant was apparently a wooden coaster, but the New Texas Giant has been upgraded and is now a steel coaster. The launch of the coaster was not smooth however. A park guest died after when she was ejected from the ride. Reports indicate that the lap bar was improperly placed before the woman left the station. There was an emergency stop button that could have stopped the ride, but the button was never pressed. Following the death, seat belts were installed and a test seat and harness were provided to potential riders.
Waterparks Not Immune to Accidents, Injuries and Deaths
While typically the main risks people consider in a water park is that of drowning or suffering an injury due to the high speeds on a waterslide or flume, still other serious risks exists at many waterparks. Many waterparks utilize man-made or natural lakes as a “splashdown” area. However, these freshwater lakes conceal a microscopic killer – the “brain eating” Naegleria fowleri amoeba. People at waterparks and in other bodies of freshwater are at risk of being infected with the amoeba when they go underwater or when water is otherwise forced into their nasal cavity. In 99% of cases, this infection leads to death. In 2013, a 12-year-old girl in Arkansas contracted the amoeba while playing at a local waterpark. In fact, at least 2 cases have been tracked back to the waterpark since 2010 resulting in the Arkansas Department of Health closing down the facility. This illustrates that regardless of the park, hidden dangers lurk at amusement parks and water parks.
Before you head out to an amusement park or a water park this Memorial Day, consider some of the risks you and your family may face. If you do decide to attend a park, I hope your day is safe and enjoyable. But if you suffer or have suffered a serious injury at the park, the personal injury lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm can fight for you and work to secure the compensation you are entitled to.