On Wednesday, five-year-old Pradipla Sutradhar was riding the Sea Serpent, a kiddie roller coaster in Coney Island, when he crawled under the safety bar and jumped off the ride before it stopped, the Daily News reported
. His leg got caught between the car and the track and he suffered multiple injuries as his mother watched; the boy's sister was on the ride with him and suffered what seems to be a less severe leg injury. You don't hear such stories about Coney Island frequently, but as with any amusement park accidents do happen, and over the last 100 years plenty of people have been injured, and some killed, through ride-malfunctions or their own negligence. Here's a brief history.
In 2007, a 53-year-old tourist, in New York to celebrate his birthday, broke his neck while riding the Cyclone, his family alleged, and then died following complications from surgery. "Cyclone operators were not alerted," the Post reports
, "and a report of an accident was never filed with police or the city Building's Department." Six other incidents of injury from the Cyclone were reported
in 2007, mostly quickly settled by the park's then-owners. Also in 2007, a 15-year-old girl was injured on the Polar Express when the safety bar broke while the ride was in motion, according to AmusementSafety.org
In 1999, a 17-year-old girl was killed and 8 others were injured; they'd been riding the Super Himalaya "when a coupling between cars broke, causing violent gyrations that threw her from the ride," the Times reported
. The Super Himalaya had injured seven riders in 1989 "when a metal bar holding a canopy over the caterpillar-like cars came loose and hit the ride as it spun around." It had also been closed briefly in 1984 for "electrical violations," the Times reported
In 1995, a 24-year-old woman's legs were mangled, and 13 other people were injured, on the aptly named Hell Hole ride, "a large cylinder that spins so fast it pins people to its walls while the floor drops," the Associated Press explained
The accident "happened when one of several steel bands encircling the cylinder snapped, ripping open the barrel, officials said. Most of the injuries occurred when people tumbled to the floor after an operator hit the emergency stop button." Loose beams shattered the woman's leg in several places.
In August 1988, a 26-year-old maintenance worker rode in the back seat of the Cyclone during his lunch break and, as it approached its first descent, witnesses reported seeing him standing up. "He fell 30 feet and landed on a crossbeam of a lower section of track," Ride Accidents reports
. "He was killed instantly." The ride was closed briefly but it was quickly deemed safe to reopen. Several websites, like Ride Accidents
, report that three years earlier, in May 1985, a 29-year-old man on the Cyclone stood up, struck his head on a crossbeam, and died. I can't find corroboration of this incident from an unimpeachable source, though.
Jumping all the back to a particularly bad day in 1937, a 37-year-old Jersey resident fell, after a sudden lurch, from the Mile Sky Chaser, a roller coaster in Luna Park, as the car he was in reached one of the ride's high points. Two hours later, two girls were on another ride, The Octopus, "when the apparatus suddenly went out of order and the car fell" about eight feet, the Times reported
; they were treated at Coney Island Hospital.
According to Jeff Stanton's Coney Island History Articles, as posted to ConeyIsland.com
"The Thunderbolt had two serious accidents during the first two years it was opened. A women was killed on August 21, 1925, when she was thrown forward and her head hit the metal handle bar in front of her. A more serious accident occurred on July 26, 1926, when a three-car train stalled part way up a hill. As it rolled back down to the bottom, it was struck by the following train. Twelve people were injured, one seriously."
According to Michael Immerso's Coney Island: the People's Playground
, in the early 20th century: "Cars were pitched from the tracks of the Giant Racer and the Rough Rider at Coney Island"—two roller coasters—"in horrific accidents that resulted in the loss of life. But rather than repel riders, the element of danger instead enhanced the coasters' allure."
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