This is a summary of notable incidents that have taken place at various Disney-owned theme parks
, amusement parks
, or water parks
The term incidents refers to major accidents, injuries, deaths, or significant crimes that occur at a Disney park. While these incidents were required to be reported to regulatory authorities for investigation, attraction-related incidents usually fall into one of the following categories:
- Caused by negligence on the part of the guest. This can be refusal to follow specific ride safety instructions, or deliberate intent to break park rules.
- The result of a guest's known or unknown health issues.
- Negligence on the part of the park, either by ride operator or maintenance.
- Act of God or a generic accident (e.g. slipping and falling), that is not a direct result of an action on anybody's part.
According to a 1985 Time magazine article, fewer than 100 lawsuits are filed against Disney each year for various incidents.
Disneyland Resort Paris
Walt Disney Studios Park
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
- On June 26, 2007, a 14-year-old girl lost consciousness on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. Paramedics attempted to revive her, but she died before the ambulance arrived. A ride inspection showed no mechanical problems.
As of December 2006, twelve guests and one employee have died inside the parks. A greater number of guests have been injured. While the California Department of Safety and Health (CDSH) has ruled that some incidents are Disney's fault, the majority of incidents were due to negligence on the guests' part.
Disney's California Adventure
- On July 29, 2005, 25 guests were injured when one train crashed into another, with 15 guests being taken to local hospitals for treatment of minor injuries. An investigation showed that a faulty brake valve, installed a few days earlier by Disney (not by the ride manufacturer Intamin AG), was the cause.
- On July 8, 1974, cast member Deborah Gail Stone, 18, of Santa Ana, California was crushed to death between a revolving wall and a stationary platform inside the America Sings attraction. She was in the wrong place during a ride intermission; it was unclear whether this was due to inadequate training or a misstep. The attraction was subsequently refitted with breakaway walls.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- On September 5, 2003, 22-year-old Marcelo Torres of nearby Gardena, California died after suffering severe blunt force trauma and extensive internal bleeding in a derailment of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster that also injured 11 other riders. The cause of the accident was determined to be improper maintenance and training of Disney cast members. Investigation reports and discovery by Torres' attorney confirmed Mr. Torres’s fatal injuries occurred when the first passenger car collided with the underside of the locomotive. The derailment was in part the result of a mechanical failure, which occurred as a result of, among other things, omissions during a maintenance procedure of at least two required actions, the left side upstop/guide wheel on the floating axle of the locomotive was not tightened in accordance with specifications; and a safety wire was not installed and/or completed the necessary maintenance required by said tagging system, all with knowledge of Disney management and personnel.
- On December 24, 1998, a heavy metal cleat fastened to the hull of the Sailing Ship Columbia tore loose, striking one cast member and two park guests. One of the guests, Luan Phi Dawson, 33, of Duvall, Washington, died of a head injury. The normal non-elastic hemp rope (designed to break easily) used to tie the boat off was improperly replaced for financial reasons by an elastic nylon rope which stretched and tore the cleat from the ship's wooden hull. Disney received much criticism for this incident due to its alleged policy of restricting outside medical personnel in the park to avoid frightening visitors, as well as for the fact that the Cast Member in charge of the ship at the time was not trained on the attraction. Due to this incident and the way it was handled, Disney reinstated lead foremen to many rides, and the Anaheim police began placing officers in the park to speed response. This accident resulted in the first guest death in Disneyland's history that was not attributable to any negligence on the part of the guest. California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health investigated the incident and found fault with the training of a park employee, who placed the docking line on the cleat even though the cleat was not intended to help brake the ship, but only hold it in place once it had already docked. Ride procedures call for the ship's captain to reverse the ship if it overshoots the dock and then re-approach the dock at the correct speed. Cal/OSHA fined Disneyland $12,500 for the error, while the theme park settled a lawsuit with the victim's survivors for $25,000,000, according to a Los Angeles Times estimate.
- On May 6, 2001, 29 people suffered minor injuries when a tree in Frontierland fell over. It is believed that the tree was over 40 years old, and one of the park's original plantings.
Indiana Jones Adventure
- On June 25, 2000, 23-year-old Cristina Moreno of Barcelona, Spain, exited the Indiana Jones ride complaining of a severe headache. She was hospitalized later that day where it was discovered that she had brain hemorrhaging. She died on September 1, 2000, of a brain aneurysm. Her family's subsequent wrongful death lawsuit against Disney stated that Moreno died due to "violent shaking and stresses imposed by the ride." In an interlocutory appeal (an appeal of a legal issue within the case prior to a decision on the case's merits), the California Supreme Court held that amusement parks are considered "common carriers" similar to commercially operated planes, trains, elevators, and ski lifts. This ruling imposes a heightened duty of care on amusement parks and requires them to provide the same degree of care and safety as other common carriers. Disney settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum after the interlocutory appeal but before a decision was rendered on the case's merits. Moreno's medical costs were estimated at more than US$1.3 million.
- In 1964, 15-year-old Mark Maples of Long Beach, California, was injured after he stood up in the Matterhorn Bobsleds and fell out. It is reported that his restraint was undone by his ride companion. He died three days later as a result of these injuries.
- On January 3, 1984, 48-year-old Dolly Regina Young of Fremont, California was killed when she was thrown from a Matterhorn Bobsleds car and struck by the next oncoming bobsled.An investigation showed that her seatbelt was found unbuckled after the accident. It is unclear whether Young deliberately unfastened her belt or if the seatbelt malfunctioned.
- In 1966, Thomas Guy Cleveland, 19, of Northridge, California, was struck and killed by the monorail, which then dragged him 40 feet down the track. This occurred on Grad Nite while he was trying to sneak into the park by climbing onto the monorail track.
- In August 1967, 17-year-old Ricky Lee Yama of Hawthorne, California, was killed while jumping between two moving PeopleMover cars as the ride was passing through a tunnel. Yama stumbled and fell onto the track, where an oncoming train of cars crushed him beneath its wheels and dragged his body a few hundred feet before it was stopped by a ride operator. The attraction had only been open for one month at the time.
- On June 7, 1980, 18-year-old Gerardo Gonzales of San Diego, California, was crushed and killed by the PeopleMover while jumping between moving cars. The accident occurred as the ride entered the SuperSpeed tunnel.
Rivers of America
- In June 1973, 18-year-old Bogden Delaurot, of Brooklyn, New York, drowned while attempting to swim across the "Rivers of America". Delaurot and his 10-year-old brother stayed on the island past closing time by hiding in an area that is off-limits to guests. When they wanted to leave the island, they decided to swim across the river. Bogden carried his younger brother on his back, as the younger brother was unsure how to swim, but Bogden drowned halfway through the swim. His body was found the next morning. The younger brother was able to stay afloat by "dog paddling" until a ride operator rescued him.
- On June 4, 1983, 18-year-old Philip Straughan of Albuquerque, New Mexico, drowned in the Rivers of America while trying to pilot a rubber emergency boat from Tom Sawyer's Island that he and a friend had stolen from a "cast members only" area of the island.
Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin
- On September 22, 2000, 4-year-old Brandon Zucker fell out of the ride vehicle and suffered severe brain damage.. On October 7, 2000, Disneyland changed its 911 emergency policy, instructing ride operators to call 911 for emergencies first instead of calling the Disney security center in order to speed emergency staff to any incident on park property. Records showed that more than five minutes passed between the time Zucker fell out of the ride vehicle and emergency personnel were contacted. A Disney spokesman claimed that the timing of this policy change and the Zucker incident were coincidental.
- On August 14, 1979, 31-year-old Sherrill Anne Hoffman became ill after riding Space Mountain. At the unload area, she was unable to get out of the vehicle. Cast members told her to stay seated while the vehicle was removed from the track. However, other ride attendants did not understand that Hoffman's vehicle was to be removed, and sent her through the ride a second time. She arrived at the unloading zone semi-unconscious. Hoffman was subsequently taken to Palm Harbor Hospital, where she died seven days later after being in a coma. The coroner's report attributed the death to natural causes, due to a heart tumor that became dislodged and entered her brain. A subsequent lawsuit against the park was dismissed.
- On March 7, 1981, 18-year-old Mel C. Yorba of Riverside, California, was fatally stabbed with a knife during a fight in Tomorrowland. His family sued the park for US$60 million. The jury found the park negligent for not summoning outside medical help, and awarded the family US$600,000.
Walt Disney World Resort
Several people have died or been injured while riding attractions at Walt Disney World theme parks. Prior to 2001, Disney was not required to report incidents to the state authorities, but they have made reports since. For example, from the first quarter of 2005
to the first quarter of 2006
, Disney reported four deaths and nineteen injuries at its Florida parks. More statistical information is available at Amusement park accidents
Resort-wide monorail system
- On June 26, 1985, a fire engulfed the rear car of the six-car Mark IV Silver monorail train in transit from the Epcot station to the Transportation and Ticket Center. This fire predated onboard fire detection systems, emergency exits, and evacuation planning. Passengers in the car kicked out side windows and climbed around the side of the train to reach the roof, where they were subsequently rescued by the Reedy Creek Fire Department.
name="OS27Jun1985"> Seven passengers were hospitalized for smoke inhalation or other minor injuries. The fire department later determined that the fire started when a flat tire was dragged across the concrete beam, heated due to friction, and ignited.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
- On April 30, 2005, 30-year-old Ryan Norman of Mooresville, Indiana, lost consciousness shortly after exiting the ride and later died. He wore a pacemaker, and Norman's parents said he had a heart condition. An investigation showed the ride was operating correctly and was not the cause of Norman's death.
Kali River Rapids
- On May 29, 2007, five guests and one cast member were injured while exiting a Kali River Rapids raft during a ride stoppage triggered by a monitoring sensor. The raft was on a steep incline, and the emergency exit platform allowing guests to easily access the emergency stairs from the incline malfunctioned. An investigation determined that the platform "disengaged and slid," according to a Disney spokesperson, who went on to say that Disney will use an alternate method for guests to exit the ride in future emergencies. The six people were taken to local hospitals to treat minor injuries, where they were later released.
- On November 27, 2007, a 63-year-old cast member died from a brain injury suffered four days earlier when she was hit by a ride vehicle after falling from a restricted area of the ride platform. On May 23, 2008, OSHA fined Walt Disney World US$21,500 and charged the company with five safety violations. The fines were: $15,000 for three serious violations; $7,500 for a still missing handrail that had been previously reported; and $3,000 for not responding to OSHA requests within the requested time period.
- On March 16, 2007, 51-year-old Oscar Wicker, Jr. from Pulaski, Mississippi, collapsed near the Downhill Double Dipper water slide. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. An autopsy showed that Wicker died due to a heart attack. His family says that he had a pre-existing heart condition.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster
- On June 29, 2006, a 12-year-old boy visiting from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, was found to be unresponsive after the ride came to an end. CPR was administered by his father on the scene while awaiting arrival of paramedics, but he was declared dead en route to the hospital. The ride was shut down for the investigation, but reopened a day later after inspectors determined that the ride was operating normally. Initially, a medical examiner stated that the victim may have had a congenital heart defect. The final report confirmed that the victim did indeed die as a result of the heart defect.
Tower of Terror
- On July 12, 2005, a 16-year-old girl from Kibworth, Leicestershire, England complained of a severe headache and other symptoms after riding the Tower of Terror. She was taken to an Orlando hospital in critical condition, where she underwent surgery to stop intracranial bleeding. On August 6, 2005, she returned to England via air ambulance. While she reportedly had ridden the attraction several times previously during her visit with no ill effects, her initial collapse was unexplained. Later tests showed that she had been in pain for a few days, before having a massive stroke leading to cardiac arrest. After an examination by both Disney and state inspectors showed no ride malfunction, the ride was reopened the next day. The girl returned home after spending six months in the hospital due to two heart attacks and surgery.
- On May 16, 1995, four-year-old Linda Elaine Baker passed out during a ride on the Body Wars attraction in the Wonders of Life pavilion. The ride was stopped immediately, and paramedics were called to the scene. The girl was pronounced dead at the hospital. Some of Linda's relatives said that Linda was known to have had a heart condition, but the autopsy was inconclusive as to whether the ride aggravated it.
- On June 13, 2005, a 4-year-old boy died after riding Mission: SPACE. An autopsy, released on November 15, 2005, by the Orange County Medical Examiner's Office, states the boy died as a result of a pre-existing, previously undiagnosed heart condition called idiopathic myocardial hypertrophy. On June 12, 2006, a lawsuit was filed against Disney by his parents, claiming that Disney never should have allowed a 4-year-old child on the ride, and didn't offer an adequate medical response after he collapsed. On January 11, 2007, the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice with both sides having to only pay their own attorney fees.
- On April 12, 2006, a 49-year-old woman from Schmitten, Germany, fell ill after riding Mission: SPACE and died at Celebration Hospital in nearby Celebration. It was later found out she died from a bleeding brain caused by high blood pressure, not due to the ride.
- From June 2005 to June 2006, paramedics treated 194 Mission: SPACE riders. The most common complaints were dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Of those 194 guests: 25 people passed out, 26 suffered difficulty breathing, and 16 reported chest pains or irregular heartbeats. In May 2006, Disney altered the ride by offering a less-intense ride experience that did not include the centrifuge. Statistics reported to the state of Florida since then have shown a decrease in the number of health complaints filed by riders.
- On January 15, 2007, 67-year-old John Parietti of New York suffered from slurred speech and right-side weakness after riding Soarin'. He died two days later. The medical examiner ruled that Parietti had a stroke, but did not perform an autopsy.
- On February 11, 2004, 38-year-old cast member Javier Cruz died when he was accidentally run over by the Beauty and the Beast parade float in a backstage area. Cruz was dressed as Pluto at the time. This led OSHA to fine Disney $6,300 for having cast members in restricted areas.
Pirates of the Caribbean
- 77-year-old Gloria Land of Minnesota lost consciousness and died after riding in February 2005. A medical examiner's report said Land was in poor health from diabetes and she previously had several ministrokes. The report concluded that her death "was not unexpected."
- On February 14, 1999, 65-year-old part-time custodian Raymond Barlow was mortally injured when he fell off the Skyway ride. He was cleaning the Fantasyland Skyway station platform when the ride was accidentally turned on. Barlow was in the path of the ride vehicles, and grabbed a passing gondola in an attempt to save himself. He lost his grip and fell 40 feet, landing in a flower bed near the Dumbo ride. He died shortly after being taken to a local hospital. The Skyway ride, which had been scheduled to be closed before the accident occurred, was permanently closed on November 10, 1999. As a result of the accident, OSHA fined Walt Disney World US$4,500 for violating federal safety codes in that work area.
- 6-year-old Rame Masarwa fainted after riding Space Mountain on August 1, 2006, and was taken to Florida Hospital Celebration where he later died. The medical examiner's report showed that Masarwa, who was terminally ill and suffered from cancer of the lungs, spine, and abdomen, died of natural causes due to a metastatic pulmonary blastoma tumor. Masarwa was visiting the Magic Kingdom as a recipient of a trip by the Give Kids the World program.
- On December 7, 2006, an unnamed 73-year-old man lost consciousness while riding Space Mountain. After being taken to the hospital, he died three days later. The medical examiner's report stated that the man died of natural causes due to a heart condition.
- On November 5, 2000, 37-year-old William Pollack from St. Petersburg, Florida was critically injured while trying to exit the ride vehicle while it was moving through the ride. At the time, he told fellow passengers that he felt ill, and attempted to reach one of the attraction's marked emergency exits. He was struck by the following ride vehicle. He died after he was taken to a local hospital.
- On May 20, 2007, five guests from Shirley, New York, ages 14 to 20 years old, were arrested for allegedly attacking a sheriff's deputy. They were accused of spitting and harassing other guests, and were being detained by Disney security near Space Mountain. When an Orange County sheriff's deputy arrived, the deputy stated that he was "Punched in the face with closed fists... by all the defendants." During the melee, the deputy used a stun gun on an unnamed 17-year-old female guest. All five guests, including 19-year-old Brian Guilfoil and 20-year-old Rose DiPietro, were arrested on charges of battery on a law enforcement officer, and for resisting arrest with violence. The 17-year-old guest was also cited for battery on a uniformed officer.
- On May 29, 2007, a 34-year-old Clermont, Florida woman was attacked by a 51-year-old park guest visiting from Anniston, Alabama as they waited in line at the Mad Tea Party attraction. On the day of the attack, while Disney security did speak with witnesses, Orange County police did not take any sworn statements from those witnesses. The victim stated that the sworn statements were not taken due to a delay in the arrival of the deputies. On July 17, 2007, an arrest warrant was issued for the alleged assaulter. The victim claims that due to the incident, she has been diagnosed with a concussion, a herniated disc in her cervical spine, and suffers from post-traumatic seizures. The case went to trial on April 14, 2008. The attacker was convicted on charges of battery and sentenced to 90 days in jail, nine months probation, and will have to take an anger management course.. With the trial over, the victim's lawyer stated that their next step was to sue Disney as Disney needs to address their security issues. On May 9, 2008, the victim and her husband filed two separate lawsuits against Disney. Her lawsuit claims, among other items, that: Walt Disney World provided inadequate staff and security at the ride; there was a lack of adequate training to recognize security threats;, that the park did not anticipate the attack and have the attacker removed before anything happened; and that the following investigation was mishandled. His lawsuit against Disney is claiming the loss of his wife's support and companionship due to the attack.
- On August 4, 2005, a 12-year-old girl from Newport News, Virginia felt ill while using the wave pool. Lifeguards talked with her after noticing her sitting on the side of the pool, and she said she felt fine. The victim passed out shortly thereafter. CPR was performed, and she was transported to the local hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The autopsy showed that she died due to arrhythmia caused by an early-stage viral heart infection.
- In 2005, Walt Disney World reported 773 injuries to OSHA for cast members portraying one of 270 different characters at the parks.
- *Of those injuries listed, 282 were related to costuming issues, such as costume weight affecting the head, neck, or shoulders.
- *49 injuries were specifically due to the costume head.
- *107 injuries were caused by park guests' interactions with the characters, where the guest hit, pushed, or otherwise hurt (intentionally or not) the costumed cast member.
- *Other items in the report include skin rashes, bruises, sprains, or heat-related issues.
- *One change that Disney made to assist character performers was to change rules limiting the overall costume weight to be no more than 25% of the performer's body weight.
- In September 2004, Disney cast member Michael Chartrand was suspended for allegedly shoving two unnamed Kodak employees while dressed as Goofy at Animal Kingdom on August 29, 2004. The two photographers believed that Goofy was a different cast member who was joking around until they were relaxing backstage and saw it was not their friend. Chartrand's attorney stated that the two photographers shoved back as part of routine horseplay among cast members meant to entertain. The sheriff's office was considering misdemeanor charges. During the investigation, two Animal Kingdom employees came forward saying Chartrand touched their breasts. Chartrand's lawyer claimed that Chartrand was merely looking at their lanyards full of lapel trading pins.
Three Little Pigs
- In 1976, a woman filed a lawsuit claiming one of the Three Little Pigs ran up to her at the "it's a small world" attraction, grabbed at and fondled her, while exclaiming "Mommy! Mommy!" She claimed to have gained 50 pounds as a result of the incident, and sued Disney for $150,000 in damages for assault and battery, false imprisonment, and humiliation. The plaintiff dropped charges after Disney's lawyers presented her with a photo of the costume, which had only inoperable stub arms.
- In April 2004, 36 year old Disney cast member Michael Chartrand was arrested for allegedly fondling an unnamed 13-year-old girl and her mother while dressed as Tigger during a photo opportunity at the Magic Kingdom in February 2004. He was charged with one count of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child between 12 and 15 years old, and one count of simple battery. The case went to trial, where the jury's deliberation lasted less than one hour. Chartrand was acquitted of all charges, and returned to work at Disney.
- On January 5, 2007, 14-year-old Jerry Monaco Jr. of Greenville, New Hampshire was allegedly punched in the head by a Disney cast member dressed as Tigger during a photo opportunity at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The family felt that the act was deliberate and filed a police report of battery against Michael Fedelem of Kissimmee, Florida. Fedelem was suspended pending the results of the investigation. In Fedelem's statement to the sheriff's office, he claimed that he was acting in self-defense as Monaco Jr. was pulling on the back of the costume, causing Fedelem to lose his breath. Jeffrey Kaufman, the lawyer who represented Michael Chartrand in the 2004 case against Tigger, released his own opinion on the situation. He believed Monaco Jr. instigated the situation and that Fedelem's movements were an involuntary reaction to pain. Kaufman was not representing Fedelem at the time of this statement. On February 15, 2007, the State Attorney General's office announced that no charges would be filed against Fedelem.
Winnie the Pooh
- A 1981 case tried Robert Hill, who was playing Winnie the Pooh in 1978. It was alleged that he slapped a child resulting in the child being bruised and having recurring headaches, and possible brain damage. Hill testified that the girl was tugging at his costume from behind. When Hill turned around, he accidentally struck the girl in her ear. At one point, Hill entered the courtroom in the Pooh costume and responded to questions while on the witness stand as Pooh would, including dancing a jig. Appearing as Pooh showed the jury that the costume's arms were too low to the ground to slap a girl of the victim's height. The jury acquitted Hill after deliberating for 21 minutes.
- In October 2006 at Disneyland Paris, amateur video was filmed backstage in the cast members' break area of different cast members pantomiming various indecent acts while they were wearing their character costumes. The video clip was later posted on various video-sharing websites often using the term "mouse orgy. In an official statement, Disney said "The video was taken in the backstage area not accessible to guests. Appropriate action has been taken to deal with the cast members involved.