Roller coaster tragedies are few and far between, but when we hear of them, they are horrifying enough to keep us away from theme parks for a while. Many of the accidents are caused by passengers failing to use common sense, but from time to time, a completely unexpected accident ensues from faulty equipment holding the ride together. When a single loose axle can derail an entire cart, we can't help but wonder just how reliable the theme park mechanics are. In truth, there is a 1 in 1.5 billion
chance that you will die on a rollercoaster, a set of odds quite a bit safer
than almost any other moving vehicle.
- War veteran Sgt. James Thomas Hackemer returned to the United States from Iraq only to be killed in a rollercoaster accident a few years later. Hackemer was already legless due to war injuries, and was thrown from the Ride of Steel coaster at the Darien Lake Theme Park Resort where he fell to his death. The roller coaster reaches a staggering 208 feet and surpasses speeds of 70 miles per hour. Hackemer had recently been fitted with prosthetics, but investigations were necessary to see whether or not the accident could have been caused by riding with missing limbs.
- Marcelo Torres was just 22-years-old and had recently celebrated his birthday when his family took him to Disneyland. While riding the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad coaster, the front locomotive part became detached from the cart and slammed into Torres' cart. The collision caused Torres severe blunt force trauma and extensive internal bleeding, eventually leading to death. Disney assumed responsibility for a loose axle that caused the accident. Several lawsuits were filed on behalf of his family and other passengers.
- Asia LeeShawn Ferguson IV was decapitated at Six Flags Over Georgia when he hopped two fences to retrieve a hat and walked into the moving Batman roller coaster. The teenager had previously been on the ride when his hat fell off. He wandered into fenced zones in the park in spite of the fact that they were clearly marked as prohibited areas. A friend accompanied him to retrieve his possession, but the friend was uninjured. Nobody on the Batman coaster was injured; however, the coaster was shut down for a day out of respect to the family.
- Perhaps the most terrifying account on the list, 14-year-old Kaitlyn Lasitter was riding Six Flags' Superman Tower of Power Coaster when she became entangled in several snapped cords. According to the teen, the ride made a strange jolting movement at only 20 feet into the air when the cables rained down, but the ride didn't stop despite her yells to do so. Some cables were even around she and her friend's necks, and they had to claw them away. When the ride reached the top, she recalled something hard slamming her head and then a burning smell as the ride plunged to the ground. Upon landing, Kaitlyn faced a gruesome sight as one of her feet had been torn off and the other was severely mangled. Doctors were able to reattach her right foot, but her left leg had to be amputated to just above the knee. She still suffers pain and post-traumatic stress from the incident.
- Lindsay Zeno died after falling 30 feet from the Xtreme roller coaster at the Dixie Landin' amusement park in Louisiana. The cars on the ride carry four passengers back to back and involve a spinning motion as it speeds along the track. Zeno was sitting by herself in a cart and nobody saw what happened. Investigations have yet to determine whether the restraining device had come up by accident. Her death, sadly, remains a mystery. Despite the tragedy, visitors still flocked to the park in the days following the accident, trusting the necessary safety precautions would be taken.
- Twenty-one passengers were injured on Blackpool Pleasure Beach's Big Dipper roller coaster in 2009. The cart holding the passengers reportedly got stuck on the track and was struck by a second cart from behind. The coaster reaches speeds of 50 miles per hour, and the crash was thought to have occurred with the cart racing at a speed of 30 miles per hour. Following the collision, all 32 passengers had to be rescued while the cart was halted 20 feet in the air. One passenger required facial reconstructive surgery for his injuries. Several were treated for back and neck injuries.
- Three-year-old Jayson Dansby was with his family at the Go Bananas indoor theme park. While riding the child-friendly Python Pit coaster, the child somehow wriggled out of the restraints and was pinned between two cars. He then fell from the moving coaster, suffering fatal head injuries. He was pronounced dead on the scene shortly thereafter. His death was decidedly an accident, but the park closed the ride for further investigation. The tragedy could have been prevented if the child had stayed seated and within the safety bar that had been put in place.
If you are injured at an amusement park due to the negligence of others you should consult with a personal injury attorney experienced in handling injury cases. Zalman Schnurman & Miner is a New York law firm that handles all accident and injury cases. They can be reached at 1-800-LAWLINE (1-800-549-5463) for a free consultation.