15 wild Amusement Park Rides...that just might kill you!
Ah, nothing like spending a sunny, fun-filled day at an amusement park. The smell of the popcorn, the happy smiling faces lined up for their turn on the Ferris wheel or water slide. But are those screams of joy you hear? Or did someone just lose a limb? 'Cause the happiest places on earth can be pretty dangerous, too.
According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, 2011 saw 1,204 people injured from rides at American theme parks. And those are just the folks requiring serious hospitalization, not those who suffered garden-variety cuts, bruises and sprains. On some attractions, you're also at risk for whiplash, major back injuries, brain aneurysms, torn ligaments or broken bones. And death? Yeah, that stalks the midway, too.
So step right up. Strap yourself in. Just make sure you've put the "next of kin" info in your phone. 'Cause these rides come with a biiiig warning:
Duh. From a statistical standpoint, rollercoasters have gotten safer over the years. But they've also gotten taller and faster; in some cases, riders are exposed to G-forces almost twice what happens when the space shuttle blasts off. But that's not enough to keep you in your seat: in 2011, an Iraq war veteran was killed at the Darien Lake amusement park outside of Buffalo, NY. The Ride of Steel coaster he was in raced over an incline and he slipped through the safety harness, falling 20 stories. At almost 27 percent, no surprise that rollercoasters have the highest rate of deaths than any other ride.
Sure, it seems like a pretty tame ride. But overcrowded Ferris wheels have been known to collapse. People have been hurt by falling bolts or other pieces of equipment as the wheel goes round and round. And some people just plain fall out. At the Mariner's Landing Park in Wildwood, New Jersey, an 11-year old girl fainted when she peeked over the railing, slipped out of the car and fell 100 feet to her death.
3. WATER SLIDES
Water slides are fast overtaking rollercoasters for injuries. One big reason is that, unlike coasters, people aren't strapped in, so they can do all kinds of crazy things. At California's Waterworld USA, a bunch of rowdy high-school seniors decided to celebrate graduation by piling on a slide all at once, causing it to collapse. One teen died from a crushed chest, and later that month, 17 of those kids received their diplomas - in wheelchairs.
4. FLUME RIDES
Whee! Down you go, splashing into the water, hands in the air like ya just don't care. But watch out - those friendly flumes can turn deadly. At Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH, a boat accidentally rolled backwards, fell over and threw the riders (still belted in) under the water. Onlookers rescued them. Then, there's the Perilous Plunge, at Knott's Berry Farm in California, billed as the tallest, steepest water ride in the world. Fun-seekers plunge down 115 feet at almost 50 miles per hour. Which is risky, right from the jump. But in one instance, a woman was thrown from the ride and killed after plunging 100 feet.
They seem so simple and harmless. But every day, about 30 kids are treated for everything from sprains to concussions resulting from over-enthusiastic "bounce-housing." At a local carnival in El Paso, TX, a gust of wind sent a bounce house hundreds of feet into the air -- with three kids inside. All were hospitalized with serious injuries. And that's not the first time an "inflatable" has become airborne - it happened at a similar local event in New York, where three houses went soaring.
Those rides that send your stomach to the top of your throat and your cranium off its axis? Yup, they account for nearly 14 percent of deaths at the park. You may also suffer head injuries, and trauma to ligaments in the neck - which can sometimes trigger a stroke. But it can get even worse: at the Adventureland park on Long Island, a woman was violently thrown from the Top Scan ride when her harness failed. She was hurled over a 20-foot wall, smashed into a parked car and died at the scene.
You got your gravity. You got your speed, careening down a slick surface on nothing more than a fabric bag. You also have very little to protect you from losing control and perhaps crashing into your neighbor on the way down. Concussions, sprains, bruises? All part of the family fun. Then there's the case of one New Jersey man who thought it would be fun to go down a 20-foot high, 62-foot long slide after hours. He was killed after crashing into a chain hooked across the bottom.
If you've ever seen the Olympic "luge" event, this is kinda like that - without the professional training or good sense. Essentially, you're careening down twisty cement pathways on a little toboggan-type thing. But there have been instances of folks who ram into someone else on the way down. In another incident at Action Park in New Jersey, a man died when he was thrown from his car and smashed his head on a rock.
9. BOAT RIDES
We're not talking about those nice sedate little rides: no, there are parks that feature something more akin to whitewater rafting. At Six Flags in Texas, a woman died and ten more were injured when their raft flipped on the Roaring Rapids ride. Even the gentler versions hold some risk: on Ye Olde Mill boat ride at New York's Playland Amusement Park, a seven-year old boy drowned when he fell out and became trapped beneath a conveyor belt.
Hmmmâ€¦.dangling high above the ground, suspended by wires. What could possibly go wrong? This kind of ride accounts for almost 21 percent of the accidents at amusement parks. At Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, the Superman Tower of Power rose 17 stories before dropping you into a freak-out free-fall. Sadly, a teenager lost both feet when some cables snapped on the way up, and wound around her legs just as the ride plummeted down.
Those pretty painted horsies go round and round in such an innocent way. But dozens of people get hurt each year on the carousel. In fact, a study in the medical journal Clinical Pediatrics revealed that more little ones are hurt on the merry-go-round than on any other amusement park ride: 21 percent (versus 10 percent from roller coasters). Most of those injuries come from falling off the horse (hey, up-and-down AND round-and-round can be disorienting). And, if you really want to see how crazy a carousel ride can get, just watch the ending of the classic Hitchcock movie, Strangers On A Train.
Water parks have been growing in popularity. But with that comes a whole bunch of potential trouble. Drowning is not unheard of especially in "wave pool"-type features (where the waves may get a little rougher or higher than expected). A 4-year old boy drowned at the 355,000-gallon "Great Barrier Reef" pool at California's Great America Park. At New Jersey's Action Park, so many kids died in their Wave Pool that it was nicknamed the "Grave Pool."
You think driving in rush-hour traffic is dangerous? Check out what's happening at the go-kart track. First, it's a bit of a free-for-all. Next, it's a free-for-all featuring kids and otherwise inexperienced drivers behind the wheel. Freak accidents are not uncommon --like the 19-year old girl at the Whiteland Raceway Park in Indiana: her long hair got caught in the kart's axle and ripped her scalp off.
Thrill seekers may get an unwanted shot of adrenaline on this type of ride. That's 'cause the cords sometimes break (not something you want to discover while plummeting to the earth). At a fair in Oshkosh, WI, a teenaged girl died after falling 50 feet from the Air Glory bungee ride. The sudden "snap" can also injure your back and neck, and some folks have also found their eyeballs shaken up: one 25-year old woman required eye surgery after a 150-foot bungee fall. The stress from the deceleration caused her to lose partial vision in one eye.
15. BUMPER CARS
Pretty much "whiplash-waiting-to-happen," although other body parts, like wrists, can easily be injured. Little ones are especially susceptible to getting hurt on this ride, simply because their tiny bodies get more easily thrown around. And then there's the fact that this ride runs on electricity; an 11-year old girl was seriously burned at Flea World in Sanford, FL when a washer connected to hot metal panels fell from the ceiling. Her skin peeled away where the washer had struck. Another boy was killed after he was "shocked" while waiting for his turn at Ohio's Lake County Fair. Maybe its just better to lead the kids to a video arcade. Or stay home.