5 Bizarre Theme Park and Carnival Ride Accidents

While reading Jamie’s post on roller coaster accidents, I began to wonder that with the number of theme parks, carnivals, and fun fares around the world, ride accidents have to happen all the time! I remember going to carnivals as a kid and wondering why my parents were so protective when it came to riding the rides. As I grew older, I noticed that many of the contraptions that once seemed dazzling and fun to ride were actually rusty death traps. Researching this story has me even more afraid to step on another Tilt-O-Whirl or Kamikaze again.

And here’s the thing: it’s not even the big, metal, high-speed rides that are the most dangerous. Kids are dying on slides, infants are being carried off in giant inflatable castles by the wind; rides that seem innocent enough can actually become quite dangerous in the right conditions. Check out these bizarre accidents I found, and you’ll see what I mean.

Hope, Arkansas — A seven-year-old boy was killed while on the Sizzler, a ride at the Easter Week 2007 carnival in the southern Arkansas town of Hope. Allegedly the boy and his mother were late arriving at the ride, and a miscommunication — perhaps due to the fact that they spoke Spanish and the ride operators spoke English — prevented their chair from locking properly before the ride was started. The boy and his mother both fell out shortly after the Sizzler began it’s run, and the boy was struck in the head not once, but twice. “[The operator] tried to stop it, but it was spinning so fast the boy was falling out of the chair, and the mother is trying to get him, but he is too heavy,” the boys uncle told the Hope Star. “When he was on the floor (ground), he stood up, and the chair hit him.” The boy stood again only to be struck in the head once more. He was quickly transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead from “traumatic brain injury.”

Sahuarita, Arizona — Anything in the right conditions can be dangerous… even those giant inflatable bounce castles. Just south of Tucson, Arizona, strong winds picked up and carried away an inflatable castle holding a 5-year-old girl and her 22-month-old sister. Thankfully the girls weren’t severely injured, but their parents (who rented the ride) claim that the waver they signed which explicitly warned them of the dangers of high wings wasn’t enough — they wanted a verbal warning as well. The Arizona case most certainly isn’t isolated. In fact, there have been numerous reports of inflatable rides blowing away with children inside. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a dust devil whirled through a park and sent two inflatable bouncers filled with 12 children flying through the air. Fortunately no major injuries were reported.

Somerset, England — A 19-year-old Oxford student from Bulgaria paid an independent “human trebuchet” operator £20 to be catapulted 100 feet through the air and onto a safety net. Unfortunately for him, the trebuchet launched him just short of the net. “As he hit the ground I heard a thud and then a second thud,” said Oliver Nelson, the person set to jump after the student, to The Guardian. Before each jump, the participant is weighed and weights are adjusted on the machine. A dummy jump is done to test the weights, and only then is a human catapulted towards the net. Manslaughter charges were brought against the ride operators, but were later dropped.

New Jersey, U.S.A. — A 26-year-old volunteer firefighter was cleaning up the grounds from a recent carnival when he wandered off to slide down an enormous three-story slide. The slide was extremely wet from recent heavy rains, causing the man to slide so fast that he hit a dip in the ride and bounced through the air, cracking his head against the surface and losing consciousness. He was later pronounced dead. There must be something about New Jersey and slides, because in July of 1998, another person was killed on a similar slide. A 19-year-old kid broke into a closed park in Ashbury Park, New Jersey to ride the mega slide. All was well until he reached the end, where a metal chain was strung along the width of the slide. He suffered a “lacerated liver and ultimately bled to death.”

Rakvere, Estonia — In May of 2007, a fire broke out on the “Tivoli Tuur” ride while in operation. The ride, which is similar to the Enterprise, was running at full speed when smoke and flames engulfed the gondolas, burning them to a crisp. Thirty-seven people were injured, most of who were treated for smoke inhalation and burns. “The blaze took hold at about 11pm, and was well alight by the time three fire crews reached the fun fair. By the time the fire was extinguished at 12.16am, flames had destroyed five plastic gondolas and the ride’s electrical system,” according to the Baltic Times. Here’s a video of the incident:


Photo credits: 1, 2, 3, 4