Disney theme parks are meant to serve as a magical escape from our regular lives and responsibilities. For some, the magical escape quickly came to an end due to tragic accidents.
While Disney surely spends plenty of time and money in ensuring the highest levels of safety for their guests and cast members, accidents are bound to slip through the cracks. From health issues to freak accidents, we’ve gathered 10 of the most horrifying accidents and deaths in Disney theme park history.
1. 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 passed away 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.
2. A cast member was struck and killed during a parade
While parades are meant for celebration, the afternoon “Share a Dream Come True” parade in 2004 ended in tragedy. Javier Cruz, a cast member who was dressed as Pluto, was about to enter Frontierland in the parade. The foot of his costume got stuck under the Beauty and the Beast float, but the float couldn’t be stopped fast enough. Cruz was struck and killed before entering the public viewing area.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration hit Walt Disney World with a $6,300 fine.
3. 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 shortly turned the gun to his own head and killed himself.
4. 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 five-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 dollar lawsuit. Goode’s mother and Walt Disney World were hit with equal blame for the incident, and she was awarded $1.5 million.
5. Two deaths were caused by the Matterhorn Bobsleds
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.
6. 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 incident, the train was approaching, and ended up striking and killing Cleveland upon impact.
7. A man jumped to his death at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Contemporary Resort became the location of a suicide in 2016. A man jumped from the inner A-frame tower at the resort to take his own life. As Walt Disney World’s monorail travels directly through the resort, services were shut down temporarily while officials handled the crime scene.
8. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad derailed and killed a passenger
An accident involving Big Thunder Mountain Railroad resulted in the death of 22-year-old Marcelo Torres in 2003. The roller coaster derailed, and while 10 other riders were injured, Torres was killed in the crash from “blunt-force injuries,” according to Theme Park Insider.
The Torres family did end up receiving a settlement from Disney. The park took blame for the incident after admitting to poor maintenance and irregular safety checks of the ride.
9. A man was fatally stabbed in Tomorrowland
In 1981, an 18-year-old man was accused of pinching another man’s girlfriend in Tomorrowland. Things turned ugly, and the angry boyfriend fatally stabbed the 18-year-old. Disney apparently did not summon outside medical help, so when the victim’s family sued for $60 million, they won $600,000.
10. An alligator attacked at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
It felt like the whole world was following along when news broke about the alligator attack at Walt Disney World in 2016. 2-year-old Lane Graves was playing along the water at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, his family was standing close by, but in a split second, Matt Graves heard a splash and turned to see an alligator dragging his son into the water.
After a nearly 16-hour search, Lane’s body was found in the Seven Seas Lagoon. His body was intact, but he did drown after suffering a traumatic neck injury. The family decided not to sue, but Disney has been taking preventative measures to keep a similar incident from happening again.
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