U.S. Roller Coaster Fatalities (1972-1997)

This page documents fatalities resulting from roller coasters at U.S. amusement parks and carnivals from 1972 through 1997. Accidents since 1997 are reported in the RideAccidents news archives.

1973

Tuesday, July 25, 1973 - At an amusement park in Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts, a 45-year-old woman either jumped or fell to her death from the top of a roller coaster.

1980

Saturday, March 29, 1980 - A 13-year-old boy was killed in an accident on the Willard's Whizzer roller coaster at Marriott's Great America theme park in Santa Clara, California. The victim was attempting to board the ride when he was struck from behind by another car. Several other people were injured in the accident. Great America is now owned and operated by Paramount.

June, 1980 - In Orlando, Florida, a 10-year-old girl died after riding a roller coaster. The victim had a heart condition, and was unable to understand the signs warning of the ride's potential dangers because she did not understand English.

Wednesday, July 9, 1980 - A 26-year-old male was killed at an amusement park in Missouri when the ride operator of a roller coaster mistakenly assumed that the train in which the victim was riding was empty, and switched the track to direct the train into a service area. The area in which the service track ran through was of low clearance, and the victim's head got jammed between the back of his seat and an overhead wooden beam. At least one other person was injured in the accident.

Wednesday, July 30, 1980 - An employee of an amusement park in Nashville, Tennessee was killed in a roller coaster accident.

1981

Sunday, July 19, 1981 - A 20-year-old man suffered massive head injuries and died after falling from a roller coaster in an accident in Denver, Colorado.

Sunday, July 19, 1981 - In Bristol, Connecticut, 16-year-old girl was killed in a fall from a roller coaster.

Sunday, August 16, 1981 - A 20-year-old park employee fell from the Rolling Thunder roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure theme park in Jackson Township, New Jersey. The accident occurred during a routine test run of the trains. An investigation by the New Jersey Labor Department concluded that the man may not have secured himself with the safety bar. A park representative later confirmed this conclusion, saying that the employee "may have assumed an unauthorized riding position that did not make use of safety restraints."
The ride was inspected, and the Labor Department concluded that the ride was "operationally and mechanically sound." Rolling Thunder was reopened a day later and still operates at Great Adventure.

1983

Sunday, April 3, 1983 - A 13-year-old girl was fatally injured while riding the Black Witch roller coaster at Magic Harbor Park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She was ejected from her seat, over the front of the car, and thrown 30 feet into a guardrail. The roller coaster was also known as the Galaxy.

Saturday, September 10, 1983 - A 13-year-old boy was killed when his head struck an object during a roller coaster ride in Doswell, Virginia.

1984

Saturday, July 7, 1984 - A woman was flung from the Rail Blazer stand-up roller coaster ride at Six Flags Over Mid-America theme park in Eureka, Missouri. The woman was whipped from the train and fell 20 feet to her death. Park officials claimed that the woman fainted, causing her to fall out. A passenger standing next to the woman during her fall said that the woman had not fainted, but was simply "flipped out" of the ride.

Saturday, July 28, 1984 - At the North Dakota State Fair in Minot, North Dakota, a 9-year-old boy was killed after he fell 30 feet from a looping roller coaster ride. The child sustained multiple injuries, including massive head injuries. The boy fell out of his car when it approached an incline immediately after the looping section of track. It was later concluded that the operator failed to properly secure the boy with the ride's safety device.

1985

Sunday, May 26, 1985 - In an accident at Astroland Amusement Park at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, a 29-year-old man was killed while riding the Cyclone roller coaster. He stood up and struck his head on a crossbeam.

Sunday, June 2, 1985 - A 56-year-old man died after he was run over by a roller coaster car in a work-related accident in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Saturday, June 22, 1985 - A 24-year-old employee was killed after having been struck by a roller coaster car at a fair in Del Mar, California.

Sunday, September 1, 1985 - In El Paso, Texas, an 18-year-old employee died after his arm was sliced off in a roller coaster accident.

1986

Sunday, August 17, 1986 - At Lincoln Park in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, a 27-year-old park employee was killed after falling from the Comet roller coaster. He may have been standing up. Lincoln Park closed 2 years later.

1987

Saturday, May 16, 1987 - During a ride on a roller coaster in New Jersey, a 33-year-old man left his safety restraint, stood up, and leaned outside of his car. His head struck an object. He sustained a fatal head injury and died seven weeks later from complications resulting from the accident.

Wednesday, June 17, 1987 - A 19-year-old girl was killed after falling from the Lightnin' Loops shuttle loop roller coaster ride at Six Flags Great Adventure theme park in Jackson Township, New Jersey. An investigation by the State Labor Department concluded that the ride itself was operating properly, but that the ride operator started the ride without having made sure that all of the passengers were secured by the safety harnesses. The Department's Office of Safety Compliance further concluded that the accident would not have occurred had proper procedures been followed.
The park was found to be in violation of the Carnival/Amusement Ride Safety Act and was subsequently charged with the maximum state fines of $1,000. The ride was reopened on Saturday, October 10, 1987, with the permission of the Labor Department, but was eventually dismantled and no longer operates at Great Adventure.

1988

Tuesday, August 23, 1988 - At Astroland amusement park in Coney Island, New York, a 26-year-old man was killed after falling from the Cyclone roller coaster. Apparently, the man eluded the safety bar and was seen standing up as the train began its descent down the first hill. The man, who was employed as a maintenance worker, was the only passenger at the time, riding in the back seat of the train during his lunch break. He fell 30 feet and landed on a crossbeam of a lower section of track. He was killed instantly.
The ride was closed following the incident but was reopened a day later after safety inspectors concluded that the ride was safe.

Friday, September 2, 1988 - An 8-year-old girl choked to death on a chewing gum after it became lodged in her throat while she was riding the Dragon roller coaster at Playland amusement park in Rye, New York.

1989

Sunday, April 30, 1989 - A 6-year-old boy died in an accident in Farmington, Utah after being struck by a roller coaster car which he had fallen from. The boy attempted to vacate his compartment after the ride had come to a stop past the normal boarding area. The operator decided to send the train around the track again, and as the ride restarted, the boy fell to the ground, which was less than four feet beneath the track. He climbed back up through the track and was struck by the car as it returned. Apparently, the operator could not have stopped the ride once the train had reached the top of the incline, as the ride was gravity-driven.

Sunday, June 9, 1989 - In an accident in Farmington, Utah, a 13-year-old girl was killed in a 40-foot fall from a roller coaster.

1994

Saturday, May 28, 1994 - A 14-year-old boy died after riding a roller coaster at an amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio.

1995

Friday, June 30, 1995 - At Worlds of Fun amusement park in Kansas City, Missouri, a 14-year-old girl died after sustaining a massive head injury in a 25-foot fall from the Timber Wolf roller coaster. The girl was reported to have been either standing or kneeling at the time of the accident.
In 1998, the girl's mother received $200,000 in a settlement reached with the Philadelphia Tobaggan Company, makers of the coaster, and Hunt Midwest Entertainment, former owners of the park.

Monday, August 14, 1995 - At Morey's Piers amusement park in Wildwood, New Jersey, a 36-year-old maintenance worker was killed after being struck in the head by the foot of a passenger riding the Great Nor'Easter suspended looping roller coaster. The passenger was also injured.

1996

Thursday, May 30, 1996 - At Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park in Valencia, California, a 25-year-old male employee was struck by a 6-ton train on the park's Revolution roller coaster as he was crossing the track in the station. Patrons standing in line waiting to board the ride witnessed the death. The park was cited for having an inadequate safety plan for track crossings, for failing to document improper track crossings, and for failing to document any disciplinary actions taken against workers for improper crossings. The state of California fined the park $8,745.

1997

Sunday, April 20, 1997 - At Bell's Amusement Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma, one person was killed and five others were injured when two roller coaster cars collided on the park's Wildcat roller coaster. The accident happened as a car was nearing the top of the lift hill. The mechanism holding the car onto the track failed, causing the car to roll back down the hill and crash into another car which was approaching the chain lift. The victim, a 14-year-old boy, was thrown from the car during the crash and struck his head on a steel support. Two other boys were also treated at a local hospital. The Wildcat had been in operation at Bell's Amusement Park since 1974. It was inspected just two weeks prior to the accident.
On October 24, 1997, the Oklahoma State Department of Labor released the following reports upon the conclusion of its investigation of the incident:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY - PRESS RELEASE - FINAL INVESTIGATORY REPORT

Friday, May 23, 1997 - A 14-year-old girl died after she rode a looping roller coaster at an amusement park in Aurora, Ohio. The girl was asthmatic. Investigators concluded that her asthma attack was not related to the operation of the ride.

Saturday, August 2, 1997 - A 44-year-old woman was killed when she was struck by cars on a roller coaster at an amusement park in Denver, Colorado. She was conducting a pre-ride inspection of the ride's railings at the time of the accident.

Saturday, August 9, 1997 - A 51-year-old maintenance worker was killed after being struck by a roller coaster train at Six Flags Astroworld theme park in Houston, Texas. The man was working on a section of track on the Excalibur roller coaster when the train was sent out for a test run and struck him along its way. A signal had indicated to the man that the track was clear.

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