A child drowned in the Magic Kingdom moat
On Aug. 11, 1977, a four-year-old boy fell into the moat surrounding Cinderella Castle at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Joel Goode drowned in five feet of water and died shortly after being pulled out by park attendants and paramedics. Goode’s mother filed a lawsuit against Magic Kingdom, claiming the fence around the moat was too short. However, the case was dismissed in 1981 when the judge ruled that she had failed in her duty to control her child. In 1982, a 5th District Court of Appeals ruled that Goode’s mother could sue Walt Disney World. She filed a suit for $4 million and was awarded $1.5 million by a jury after they decided she was 50% at fault for the incident.
A woman fell into a coma after riding Space Mountain
A woman named Sherrill Ann Hoffman ignored the medical warning signs outside of Disneyland’s Space Mountain in 1974 and paid for it with her life.
While on Space Mountain, Hoffman became ill and was unable to get out of her car after the ride was over. A malfunction prevented her car from being unloaded onto the unloading platform. She was sent around the track again and returned to the unloading zone in a state of unconsciousness. Hoffman was taken to hospital and later fell into a coma. She died seven days later. Despite the fact that Hoffman’s death was listed as caused by “natural causes,” it was suspected that her ride on Space Mountain had dislodged a heart tumour which then entered her brain. Her husband attempted to sue Disney, but the case was dismissed.
A cast member was crushed during a parade
Yet another incident at DisneyWorld resulted in the death of one of its workers – this time involving one of the cast members. Javier Cruz, a 38-year-old man who was dressed as Pluto and was an employee of the Walt Disney Company at the time of his death, tripped and fell while participating in the daily Mickey’s Soundsational Parade outside the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. His body was crushed by the Beauty and the Beast float as it made its way out of the backstage area toward the public viewing spots. Cruz’s co-workers had to enlist the help of a forklift in order to raise the float off of his body. The incident was not witnessed by any of the park’s visitors, but Disney was fined $6,500 for safety violations.
A man died after an equipment malfunction on The Sailing Ship Columbia
The Sailing Ship Columbia, a full-scale replica of the first American ship to traverse the entire globe, is one of Disneyland’s most famous rides. Guests are invited to board and sail around the park, experiencing the excitement of sailing on an actual wooden vessel. The Columbia is currently under refurbishment, but it also has a tragic history – it was the setting for one of the park’s most notorious visitor deaths. In 1998, three people were struck by a heavy metal cleat that had come loose from the Sailing Ship Columbia. The cleat tore away from the ship due to the fact that the usual hemp rope used to secure it had been replaced with a cheaper nylon version which stretched and caused it to come away from the ship. The cleat struck a Disney employee and two guests – Luan Phi Dawson and his wife. Dawson was hit in the head and died two days later from his injuries. Disney was faulted for not having properly trained its staff and for not allowing medical personnel into the park after the accident. The death of Dawson was Disney’s first guest death in which the company took full responsibility. The victim’s family was awarded $25,000,000 in damages.
A teenager was hit by a monorail
In the summer of 1966, 19-year-old Thomas Guy Cleveland tried to sneak into Disneyland by climbing over a 16-foot fence and onto the Monorail track. Security guards noticed him and were about to apprehend him when a monorail came barreling down the same track at 25 mph. The guard yelled at Cleveland to watch out for the approaching monorail. Cleveland jumped and landed on a fiberglass canopy beneath the track. Unfortunately, the canopy was too short, and the underside of the monorail car struck Cleveland’s head. He was dragged 40 feet down the track, and by the time the monorail had made a complete stop his body had been torn to pieces.
10 people were injured after a ride wasn’t fixed properly
When accidents occur at Disneyland, park officials usually jump to blame their visitors’ reckless behavior. However, this incident led to Disney accepting responsibility for their negligence. On September 5, 2003, a car derailed on the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride. The crash killed 22-year-old Marcelo Torres and injured 10 other riders. Park staff had noted unusual sounds coming from the train but did not perform any maintenance on the broken ride before allowing it to continue operating. An investigation revealed that a mechanic—who had been improperly trained—hadn’t tightened a couple of bolts or attached a safety wire to the wheel assembly. This allowed the train to separate from the track. The state ordered Disneyland to retrain its maintenance workers. A month after the ride was reopened, two trains crashed during a test run, and the state ordered Disneyland to retrain its workers again. In a confidential settlement with the Torres family, Disney was forced to admit responsibility for the incident.
A woman was decapitated
In 1984, the Matterhorn bobsled ride at Disneyland claimed the life of Dolly Young, a 48-year-old Californian woman who was thrown from a bobsled and struck by the next oncoming car. If that wasn’t gruesome enough, Dolly was decapitated after being crushed between the car’s wheels and the steel track. Employees have claimed that after Dolly’s death, the area where she was struck on the Tomorrowland side of Space Mountain became known as “Dolly’s Dip,” and park goers and employees often report seeing her ghost on the ride or feeling a haunting presence. The incident was investigated, and investigators discovered that her seat belt had not been fastened. It remained unclear whether she had purposely unfastened it, if the seat belt malfunctioned, or if another passenger had unfastened it.
A child was crushed by a menu board
In one of the park’s most bizarre deaths, a young girl from Florida died on April 6, 1982 at Walt Disney World after being crushed by a falling menu board. Reports say the girl was waiting in line with her family outside the Kona Cafe when she and her 12-year-old sister started playing with a rope tied to a large menu board. The girls pulled on the rope and freed the board from its fasteners, causing it to fall on top of the toddler and crush her.
An employee fell from a ledge after a wasp attack
On November 12, 1992, an off-duty cast member fell to his death from the ledge outside the Top of The World restaurant at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. While falls and suicides are surprisingly common at Walt Disney World, this one is a little more unusual. 24-year-old Brian Hribek – a host at the Disney hotel’s Top Of the World – was showing his roommate the view from an observation deck on the 15th floor of the hotel. While sitting on a 4-foot security barrier, he was attacked by a swarm of “giant wasps.” As he tried to swat them away, he fell over the edge onto a landing deck on the 4th floor of the monorail, killing him instantly. Disney officials said they do not know where the wasps came from. However, reporters at the scene said employees told them that they saw the wasps, describing them as “huge” and “all over the place.”
A driving instructor was killed in a car crash
On April 12, 2015, a fatal accident occurred at the Walt Disney World Speedway when a driver in the Exotic Driving Experience lost control during an off-road course and crashed. Officials determined that driving instructor Gary Terry was killed when driver Tavon Watson was driving a Lamborghini at 100 mph in the wrong direction on the track. Because the track was designed for counterclockwise traffic, Terry’s car would not have been exposed to the end of the guardrails if his car been traveling in the correct direction. In 2015, Walt Disney World Speedway was demolished to make room for more parking spaces at the Magic Kingdom. The demolition came as a result of $7,000 in fines from OSHA after the incident.
A man shot himself
A man committed suicide at Disney’s Epcot theme park on Sept. 12, 1992. Allan Ferris, who had recently broken up with his girlfriend, entered the park about 90 minutes after operating hours in search of her. When security guards refused to allow him to see her, he pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and shot three times. One security guard escaped, but two stopped when Ferris fired at them again. He held the guard’s hostage in the Imagination Pavilion for about 10 minutes before he released them and walked out with his gun pointed at his own head. Moments later, he shot himself in the head. He was pronounced dead at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
A monorail crash led to the death of an employee
Disney was found liable in the death of a monorail driver in 2009. Austin Wuennenberg died after being struck by an oncoming monorail at the Walt Disney World Transportation and Ticket Center. Wuennenberg was badly injured in the collision, and died as rescuers attempted to free him from his carriage. Thankfully, nobody else was hurt in the accident. Christine Wuennenberg, the mother of the victim, sued Disney over her son’s death, and the case was settled out of court. The cause of the accident, according to investigators, was “the shop panel operator’s failure to properly position switch-beam 9 and the failure of the monorail manager acting as the central coordinator.”
A child died whilst riding his bike
On April 1, 2010, 11-year-old Chase Brubaker of St. Petersburg, Florida died after being hit by a bus at Disney’s Wilderness Resort. The incident occurred when Brubaker and a friend were riding bicycles on the sidewalk along a roadway and Brubaker biked off the sidewalk, striking the side of the bus and then being pulled underneath it by its wheels. The 11-year-old girl who was cycling with Brubaker and the 28 passengers on the bus was not hurt in the accident. Officials also said there was no evidence that the bus driver, David Russel Rich, 56 – who had been employed by Disney for 30 years at the time – was impaired or driving recklessly.
A child suffered brain damage after a ride accident
Tragic incidents involving children at Disney theme parks are not uncommon. In 2000, a four-year-old boy named Brandon Zucker fell out of his car on the Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin ride at Disneyland in Anaheim and became trapped beneath another vehicle; his body was folded in half. Zucker was left paralysed and severely brain damaged. After the accident, the Walt Disney Company offered to pay for Zucker’s medical care, but sadly he never made a full recovery and died aged thirteen. The accident sparked a public outcry for greater safety measures at theme parks.
An employee was crushed whilst cleaning a ride
Despite its typical Disney-fairytale aesthetic, It’s A Small World has had its share of tragedy. In October 2010, one of the ride’s workers was killed during an early morning voyage around the world. A 53-year-old cleaner was killed when the ride was accidentally switched on. He was dragged beneath one of the boats and later died in hospital from the injuries sustained after being transferred from the park to hospital by paramedics.
An employee died after falling from a ride
Karen Price was a cast member at Walt Disney World in Florida who, while working on the Primeval Whirl ride, fell and hit her head. She sustained serious head injuries, and died in hospital five days later. The Disney Company was fined $25,000 for committing five safety violations on account of the incident, one of which was for failure to install a handrail that had been previously reported missing. Had this been done, perhaps Price’s life could have been saved. In 2008, Disney announced that it would add sensors to the ride that would prevent it from working if somebody was detected in an area deemed to be “off-limits,” thus preventing further incidents of this kind.
A young woman suffered a brain haemorrhage
The Indiana Jones Adventure ride at Disneyland is one of the most popular attractions on the park’s roster, but you might think twice about riding it after hearing this story. In June 2000, 23-year-old Cristina Moreno boarded the ride and later returned to her hotel room with a headache. When she collapsed there, she was taken to hospital where doctors discovered that she had suffered a brain haemorrhage. After being taken back to Spain via air ambulance, Moreno never woke up. In September of that year, she died. Her family sued Disney for wrongful death and believed the Indiana Jones Adventure ride was responsible for her death. In 2006, Disney settled out of court and stated they deemed the ride safe.
An actor died after an onstage accident
Mark Priest, a cast member playing the role of Captain Jack Sparrow in the theme park, died in 2009. On 6th August 2009, he slipped on a puddle while onstage and hit his head against a wall. The 47-year-old actor sustained severe injuries, including head lacerations requiring 55 stitches, and a broken vertebra in his neck. Tragically, he died four days later from complications.
A teenager was killed in a knife fight
In 1981, 18-year-old Mel Yorba was fatally stabbed with a knife during a fight at Disneyland. His family sued the park for $60 million, saying that employees should have called for outside medical help during the assault. The jury did not award them the full amount; they received $600,000. Disney, obsessed with its public image, even in the face of death, sent the victim to a hospital not in an ambulance but in a Disneyland van with a park nurse.
An employee died after falling from the Skyway
One of the saddest Deaths at Disney was that of part-time custodian Raymond Barlow, who was killed while cleaning the Fantasyland Skyway station on February 14, 1999. When park staff turned on the ride while he was there, he tried to grab a passing seat in an attempt to save himself, but he was struck by an oncoming Gondola. Tragically, he lost his grip and fell 40 feet, landing in a flower bed near the Dumbo ride. The Skyway ride was already scheduled to be closed before the accident occurred, and was permanently closed in November 1999. As a result of the accident, OSHA fined Walt Disney World US$4,500 for violating federal safety codes in that work area.
A teenager was thrown from a bobsled
From 1955 to 1964, Disneyland was a safe amusement park. But in May of 1964, their record came to an end when a 15-year-old boy died while riding on the Matterhorn Bobsled. The teenager unbuckled his seatbelt just as the ride reached the top of a mountain. When the ride came rushing down, he stood up and lost his balance. He was thrown out of the car and landed on the track below. The accident broke his ribs, caused several internal injuries, and fractured his skull. The boy never regained consciousness; he died three days later.
An employee was crushed during a show
On July 8, 1974, an 18-year-old hostess was killed at the America Sings attraction. The seemingly harmless show featured a rotating stage with singing robot animals. Unbeknownst to park guests, there were two walls that moved toward each other during each rotation, and somehow Deborah Stone got stuck between them as the show rotated back to its starting position. When audience members heard Deborah scream, it was too late. She had already been crushed. The accident resulted in a small settlement between Disneyland and Deborah’s parents, who redesigned the walls of the to prevent further incidents. The attraction was shut down in 1988.
A teenager was hit by a train
Disneyland’s People Mover is a slow-moving attraction that gives riders a bird’s-eye view of the theme park. The ride’s maximum speed is 2 miles per hour, and though it is slow, the seemingly harmless speed probably contributed to the carelessness and fearlessness that led to the death of the following passenger. On August 21st in 1967, 17-year-old Ricky Lee Yama decided to try to jump between two moving cars on the People Mover at Disneyland. He missed his mark and fell onto the tracks below where he was crushed under an oncoming train. The accident forced Disneyland to take apart the ride to remove Yama’s body.
A boy died in a parking lot shootout
The second homicide in the park’s history occurred early in the morning of March 7, 1987, when a 15-year-old boy was fatally shot after a shouting match turned violent. The incident began as an early-morning shouting match between rival gang members; the fight escalated into a brawl that devolved into a shooting match in the parking lot around 1am. Two hours after the incident, Long Beach police arrested 13 Samoan youths as they drove along the San Diego Freeway in Long Beach. The shooter claimed that he thought the gun was a toy; however, that wasn’t enough to escape being convicted of second-degree murder.
A cast member was found dead in a burning car
A 2018 death at Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course shocked local residents. Cast member Brian Christ, 49, was found dead in a burning vehicle at 4:11 a.m on August 18th, but his death was not the result of an automobile accident. Deputies have not revealed the details surrounding Christ’s death, though they have stated that foul play is unlikely and that no suspects are being sought. To this day, Disney has remained tight-lipped regarding the incident, but investigators ruled it a suicide as Christ had posted ‘Goodbye Cruel World’ on his Facebook page earlier that day.
A teenager drowned trying to swim the Rivers of America
Bodgen Delaurot was the first person to die on Tom Sawyer’s Island. In June 1973, 18-year-old Bodgen and his 10-year old brother took a raft out to the attraction. As darkness fell on the park, the brothers hid in a patch of woods near the burning cabin. Later that night, after the rafts had stopped running, they decided to swim back to shore. Bogden, with his younger brother on his back, eventually grew exhausted and disappeared under the water. The younger brother dog-paddled until a boat came to his rescue. Bogden’s lifeless body was found the next morning. The boys’ family sued Disneyland alleging that the attraction’s name enticed the kids to play in the river just like the novel’s characters. However, Disneyland won the case.
A child died on a space ride
A lawsuit was filed against Disney by the parents of a four-year-old boy who died on the Mission: SPACE ride in 2005. The Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office found that the boy died as a result of a pre-existing, previously undiagnosed idiopathic heart condition called myocardial hypertrophy. The family sued Disney, claiming that they should never have allowed a four-year-old on the ride. The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice on January 11, 2007.
A graduate drowned after a drunken celebration
In 1983, a Grad Nite celebration at Disneyland turned tragic when Philip Straughan and his friend were walking through Frontierland. The two men hijacked a motorized rubber raft from an attended dock behind an “employees only” section of the park and sped down the Rivers of America. Their boat hit a rock, throwing Straughan into the water. Following a failed search for Straughan, his friend rushed off to find help. After an hour, park officials found his lifeless body in four feet of water. His blood alcohol content was .19, nearly twice the then-legal limit for adults. The family lost the lawsuit against Disney but were able to collect a settlement from the travel bureau that had allowed the boys to get intoxicated.
A child was crushed by a tour bus
Although a parking lot may seem like a safe place to walk, it is actually full of potential dangers. In 1985, 7-year-old Jennifer Reid was visiting the park with her uncle. Reid fell down whilst searching for their car, and was run over and crushed by a tour bus.
A toddler was eaten by an alligator
A tragic event took place on June 14, 2016 at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. A two-year-old boy from Nebraska was dragged into the water by an alligator at 9:15pm while playing on the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon. In front of his parents’ eyes, he was pulled underwater and did not resurface again until the following afternoon when his body was found. In the aftermath of the attack, Disney added warning signs and rope-barriers to waterways around its entire resort. References to alligators were also removed from The Jungle Cruise attraction and others, but these actions did little to thwart accusations of a cover-up. Local press alleged that Disney removed nearly 100 alligators from their park in the year leading up to the incident.
A man jumped from the Disneyland Hotel
In May 2008, a businessman jumped to his death from his 14th floor balcony at the Disneyland Hotel’s Wonder Tower. He was later identified as John Newman, Jr., a dentist from Santa Cruz, California. Newman struggled with anxiety and depression, and was visiting Anaheim for a business convention. At least one cast member witnessed the jump.
A disabled woman died after sustaining an injury on a ride
A 66-year old disabled woman was told that the wheelchair accessible boats for the Jungle Cruise were not available, but she was still able to enjoy the ride. After the ride ended, Joanne Aguilar fell backwards as she tried to exit the boat and sustained a compound fracture in her leg. Aguilar spent time in the hospital and in a rehabilitation center before contracting an infection and passing away a few months later. Her family sued Disney, claiming that Aguilar’s injury at the park led to the infection that ultimately contributed to her death.
A man died after jumping from a parking structure
On December 20, 2022, tragedy struck at Disneyland as a man jumped to his death from the Mickey and Friends parking structure. The incident occurred around 9:00 p.m., just as the Disneyland Candlelight Processional was taking place. It was meant to be a magical night at Disneyland with the debut of new shows, however, officials reported that “a man in his 50s jumped to his death from a parking structure at Disneyland on Saturday evening.”
A child fell unconscious after riding a rollercoaster
In June 2006, a 12-year-old from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was discovered unconscious in his seat after riding the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. He died before reaching the hospital. The ride was shut down for the investigation, but reopened a day later after inspectors determined that it was operating normally. It was later determined that he died from an undiagnosed congenital heart defect.
A stuntman died
A Disney’s Hollywood Studios stuntman died after suffering a head injury during rehearsals for the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular show. 30-year-old Anislav Varbanov was was hurt whilst rehearsing a tumbling roll. He was taken to hospital but later died from his injuries.
An employee was electrocuted
A worker employed by a Disney subsidiary was killed when he was electrocuted while working near an electrical transformer at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. 50-year-old Steven Snyder was working on a temporary outdoor platform and was shocked around 10am. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at Celebration Hospital.
A resort guest died after a fall
In December 2020, Jessica Straub, a travel agent from Wisconsin, died after falling at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. The medical examiner ruled that her death was caused by blunt head trauma from falling at a standing height. Her family filed a lawsuit against Disney World.
A man died from fentanyl poisoning
Philip Weybourne, a British man vacationing in Florida with his family in May 2022, died after going to a bar at the Yacht Club hotel at Disneyworld. Tests showed that he his body contained fatal levels of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid similar to morphine which requires only two milligrams to prove potentially fatal.
A child collapsed on a ride
On May 16, 1995, four-year-old Linda Baker collapsed and died while riding Body Wars at Epcot Center. The ride was immediately stopped, and paramedics were called to the scene. An autopsy performed at the hospital revealed that she had died of heart complications. Some of her relatives say that she was known to have had a heart condition; however, authorities could not determine whether or not the ride aggravated it.
Two visitors died after riding Space Mountain in 2006
Two people died in 2006 after riding Space Mountain at Walt Disney World. The firsr was six-year-old Rame Masarwa, who diagnosed with cancer and was on a trip to the park through Give Kids the World, an organization that provides wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses. He fainted and died shortly after riding Space Mountain. The medical examiner’s report showed that the cause of death was natural due to a metastatic pulmonary blastoma tumor. The second victim, a 73-year-old man who lost consciousness while riding the ride, died three days later. The medical examiner’s report said that he died of natural causes due to a heart condition.