10 Deadliest Roller Coaster Accidents

Wildcat, Bell's Amusement Park, 1997
In 1997, A 14-year-old boy died on the Wildcat ride in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Six others were injured. Tom Baddley/Flickr/Used Under Creative Commons CC BY-NC 2.0 License

If you've ever ridden a roller coaster, you know the nervous excitement that builds as the cars slowly climb to the top of the ride. It's the calm before a thrilling blur of speed, tight turns and 360-degree loops. Now imagine how terrifying it would be if the lift chain pulling your car to the summit malfunctioned and sent it careening backward. That's exactly what happened on April 20, 1997, at Bell's Amusement Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

That day, visitors packed the park for a special 25-cent-per-ride promotion. A popular attraction was the Wildcat roller coaster, which had been testing Tulsans' nerves since 1974. As one of the ride's cars reached the top of the highest hill it stalled out, and a safety device meant to keep it from sliding backward failed. The car slipped 45 feet (13.7 meters) back down the track and slammed into another car, ejecting a 14-year-old boy who was the lone fatality. Six other people were injured [source: Orlando Sentinel].

State investigators ultimately determined that Bell's had replaced a plastic part of the anti-rollback device with a material that was not approved by the manufacturer. While the victim's families negotiated a financial settlement with the park's owners, criminal charges were eventually dropped. Bell's Amusement Park closed in 2006.