There’s no happier place than Walt Disney World. With the brightly colored buildings and rides, costumed cast members, and parades with fireworks at night, it’s almost easy to forget just how much you spent on your vacation. The expense aside, there’s another aspect to theme parks we can’t ignore: They can be dangerous.
A range of accidents have taken place at Disney World, and many have proven fatal. Here are the ones you probably haven’t heard about — and the horrific details on what happened.
1. A man died after riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
You might have missed this 2017 death that occurred at Magic Kingdom — and that’s because Disney didn’t reveal the incident until it filed its quarterly report. New York Daily News explains a 54-year-old man collapsed after riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, an attraction that’s meant for the whole family. It turns out he had a preexisting condition, and he died at the hospital following the collapse. According to his death certificate, he died from “natural causes.”
Next: We’ll never forget when this horrific event was all over the news.
2. An alligator snatched a child at a Disney resort
You probably remember this tragic death of a 2-year-old from Nebraska. CNN reports in June 2016, the toddler was collecting water in buckets from the man-made Seven Seas Lagoon at a Disney resort. The report of the incident noted several people saw an alligator in the lagoon, but Disney employees were too late. The alligator grabbed on to the child and dragged him out farther into the lagoon, where he died.
Since then, Disney officials believe they caught the offending gator — and they’ve finally put up signs to warn tourists.
Next: Not everyone who dies at Disney is a park guest.
3. A ride operator was pushed off a platform and hit her head
It seems it’s not just Disney guests who are at risk of serious injury or death. The Orlando Sentinel explains in 2007, 63-year-old Karen Price was loading guests onto the Primeval Whirl at Animal Kingdom when one of the vehicles hit her. She reportedly was leaning forward when the vehicle started moving, and it then pushed her off the platform. She fell 3 feet and hit her head. Five days later, she died from her injuries.
Next: Who knew this slow ride could be so dangerous?
4. A monorail collision left the operator dead
As one of the slowest-moving rides at Disney, you’d never expect the monorail to kill. But in 2009, a collision between two trains caused a major tragedy. Denver7 reports in 2009, one of the trains on the monorail should have been switched from the Epcot line to the Magic Kingdom express line. But because this switch didn’t happen, one of the trains collided with another, resulting in the death of a 21-year-old train operator. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration set a $35,200 penalty against Disney World for negligence.
Next: This is the oddest Disney death we’ve heard yet.
5. A costumed cast member was run over by a parade float
You probably never thought parade floats could kill, but back in 2004, this incident occurred. The Orlando Sentinel reports Disney worker Javier Cruz was dressed as Pluto for the daily afternoon parade when tragedy struck. He was near the end of the parade line and about to pass through the gate and into the view of the public when one of the floats hit him. Cruz died of his injuries, and many were outraged that this happened because it appeared to be completely preventable.
Next: This guest tried to do something unwise — and it resulted in death.
6. A teen tried to jump from car to car on the PeopleMover ride
This one happened at Disneyland instead of Disney World, but it’s so bizarre, it’s still worth noting. Snopes explains many have died from Disneyland attractions due to ignoring safety instructions, and that’s exactly what happened to 17-year-old Ricky Lee Yama in 1967. Yama decided to exit his car on the PeopleMover ride. But he did so as it was passing through a tunnel. While jumping from one car to the next, he slipped, fell, and was crushed beneath the wheels of the cars that came after.
Next: A creepy Disney attraction was abandoned following this death.
7. Disney’s first water park closed after a boy died
Disney World opened its first water park in 1976. But by 2001, it was totally abandoned. Mirror.co.uk reports a young boy was visiting the park, River Country, in 1980 when a rare amoeba entered his body through his nose. He then died when the amoeba attacked his brain and nervous system. Since then, the park has been rendered poisonous, and workers have even claimed Disney’s fireworks and boats have completely polluted the lake.
Next: A second time on this ride sparked a coma and a lawsuit.
8. A woman died after riding Space Mountain
As if riding a roller coaster through the dark isn’t frightening enough, the experience a 31-year-old woman endured on Space Mountain in 1979 was truly a nightmare. At the end of the ride, she was feeling so ill that she was unable to get out of her seat. While ride operators were trying to get her the help she needed, other employees weren’t notified, so they accidentally sent her on the ride again.
The second ride put her into a coma, and she died within a week. Even though Disney ended up in a lawsuit, it was dismissed once the woman’s death was determined to be the result of a tumor traveling to her brain after dislodging from her heart.
Next: A hostage situation takes place at Epcot.
9. An erratic man committed suicide in Epcot
A scary situation involving hostages resulted in a man taking his own life at Walt Disney World. In 1992, Allan Ferris entered Epcot an hour and a half after the park had closed, apparently searching for his ex-girlfriend. When three security guards denied his demands, Ferris took out a shotgun and fired the gun into the air three times.
All three security guards fled, but after Ferris fired off the gun again, only one guard escaped and two were held hostage in the Journey Into Imagination pavilion. Ferris released the guards after 10 minutes but turned the gun to his own head and killed himself.
Next: The tragic loss of a 4-year-old boy
10. A 4-year-old drowned in the Cinderella Castle moat
In 1977, 4-year-old Joel Goode climbed the fence surrounding the Cinderella Castle moat in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Goode sadly fell into the 5-foot deep water to his death. His mother ended up suing Magic Kingdom, due to negligence of proper fence height.
In 1981, the case’s judge placed blame on the mother, claiming she “failed in her duty to control the child of tender years,” and the case was thrown out.
One year later, the 5th District Court of Appeals decided Walt Disney World could be sued if Goode’s mother filed for a $4 million lawsuit. Goode’s mother and Walt Disney World were hit with equal blame for the incident, and she was awarded $1.5 million.
Next: This ride caused two deaths.
11. The Matterhorn Bobsleds caused 2 deaths
The Matterhorn Bobsleds became the location of two unfortunate fatalities, one of which was the first to happen in Disneyland’s history. In 1964, a rider unfastened the buckle of 15-year-old Mark Maples. Maples stood up during the ride and fell out of the car, becoming badly injured and passing away within a few days.
Twenty years later, Dolly Young rode the Matterhorn Bobsleds and became the second rider to be killed. Her seat belt wasn’t fastened, causing her to be thrown from the car and struck by the next vehicle. Given the fact that she was alone on the ride, whether it was an accident or she unbuckled herself on purpose remains a mystery.
Next: This teen tried to sneak into the park and ended up dying.
12. A monorail accidentally struck a teen sneaking into the park
In an attempt to sneak into a Disney park during annual Grad Nite in 1966, 19-year-old Thomas Guy Cleveland accidentally ended his own life. A security officer tried to keep him from entering the park, but Cleveland attempted to cross the monorail track by jumping beneath it into a canopy. In an untimely event, the train was approaching and ended up striking and killing Cleveland upon impact.
Additional reporting by Chelsea Leary.
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