10 Deadliest Roller Coaster Accidents


Big Dipper, Battersea Park, 1972

The Big Dipper had already experienced numerous problems leading up to the 1972 accident. Andrew Bain/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images
The Big Dipper had already experienced numerous problems leading up to the 1972 accident. Andrew Bain/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

In 1972 Battersea Park in London, England, was the scene of what's widely considered the worst roller coaster disaster in history. The ride in question was The Big Dipper, a three-car wooden roller coaster built in 1951 as the main attraction for the park's new Fun Fair. It was hugely popular, comparable to today's iconic London Eye.

Ominously, the coaster experienced problems from the beginning. In May 1951 an empty car derailed and knocked over a protective railing, stranding passengers in the other cars. Disaster struck again in 1968 when another crash gave a woman a broken arm.

But, by far, the worst accident at The Big Dipper happened in the late afternoon of May 30, 1972. That's when 31 people climbed aboard the coaster for a few minutes of heart-pounding fun. Instead, excitement turned to terror as the lift chain prematurely released at the top of the first incline, sending the cars plummeting backward down the hill and into a turn. The train derailed, killing five children and injuring 13 others [source: Brown].

In the aftermath of the accident, the park manager and the coaster's engineer were charged with manslaughter, though they were cleared at trial. But the accident was the beginning of the end for the coaster and the park. The Big Dipper was closed and demolished soon after the tragedy, and the Fun Fair shut its doors in 1974.

Author's Note: 10 Deadliest Roller Coaster Accidents

I've never been a big fan of roller coasters. Diving down steep inclines, tearing around tight curves, turning upside down — it all just feels out of control. While this article shows that accidents do happen, almost everyone makes it through unscathed, and some even have smiles on their faces. So if roller coasters are your thing, you should keep riding, but leave me on the ground, and I'll watch.

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • Associated Press. "Roller Coaster Crash a Mystery." Santa Cruz Sentinel. March 31, 1980. (June 20, 2015) http://www.newspapers.com/image/62509963/
  • Barber, Brian. "Wildcat Material Faulted." Tulsa World. Oct. 25, 1997. (June 19, 2015) http://m.tulsaworld.com/archives/wildcat-material-faulted/article_7f42fac6-5428-53d5-a552-f435387aabfb.html
  • Besoyan, Darren R. "Willard's Whizzer." Northern California Dispatch. Vol. 3, Iss. 2. Spring 2006. (June 20, 2015) http://acenorcal.org/ncd/ncd9.pdf
  • The Boston Daily Globe. "Hurled Out of Coaster." June 9, 1911. (June 19, 2015) http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/boston/doc/501734250.html
  • The Boston Daily Globe. "License Is Restored." June 21, 1911. (June 19, 2015) http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/boston/doc/501742104.html
  • The Boston Daily Globe. "Lynn Man Killed on Revere Beach Racer." July 16, 1917. (June 19, 2015) http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/boston/doc/503233528.html
  • Brown, Matt. "London's Forgotten Disasters: The Battersea Big Dipper Crash." Londonist. March 4, 2014. (June 14, 2015) http://londonist.com/2014/03/londons-forgotten-disasters-the-battersea-big-dipper-crash.php
  • California Research Bureau. "Appendix A: Evolution of California's Amusement Rides Safety Laws." August 1997. (June 20, 2015) http://www.library.ca.gov/crb/97/12/97012aa.html
  • Cedar Point. "Millennium Force." 2015. (June 15, 2015) https://www.cedarpoint.com/rides/Roller-Coasters/Millennium-Force
  • Tribune News Services. "Boy, 14, is Killed After Being Thrown From Roller Coaster." Chicago Tribune. April 21, 1997. (June 19, 2015) http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1997-04-21/news/9704210095_1_roller-coaster-ride-front-car
  • Cohen, Joyce. "Criminal Charges Dropped in Bell's Case." Amusement Business. May 31, 1999. (June 19, 2015) http://business.highbeam.com/53/article-1G1-54825697/criminal-charges-dropped-bell-case
  • Francis, David W. and Diane DeMali Francis. "The Golden Age of Roller Coasters in Vintage Postcards." Arcadia Publishing. 2003.
  • Franklin, Jasmine. "Mindbender Tragedy, 25 Years Later." Edmonton Sun. June 14, 2011. (June 17, 2015) http://www.torontosun.com/2011/06/13/mindbender-tragedy-25-years-later
  • Horan, Judy. "Krug Park: Gallagher Park in Benson Was Once an Amazing Amusement Park." Omaha Magazine. April 28, 2015. (June 16, 2015) http://omahamagazine.com/2015/04/krug-park/
  • International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. "Amusement Ride Safety." 2015. (June 15, 2015) http://www.iaapa.org/safety-and-advocacy/safety/amusement-ride-safety
  • Japan Economic Newswire. "Expoland to Close 21 Months After Fatal Roller Coaster Disaster." Feb. 10, 2009. (June 18, 2015) http://www.webrtcworld.com/news/2009/02/10/3975721.htm
  • The Japan Times. "Woman Killed, 19 Riders Hurt in Osaka Roller Coaster Accident." May 6, 2007. (June 18, 2015) http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2007/05/06/national/woman-killed-19-riders-hurt-in-osaka-roller-coaster-accident/#.VYTwaVVVikq
  • Kaplan, Tracey and Katie Nelson. "Great America Roller Coaster Accident Injures Two People." San Jose Mercury News. June 13, 2015. (June 20, 2015) http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_28306406/great-america-roller-coaster-accident-injures-two-people
  • The Lakeland Ledger. "Teen Killed, Eight Hurt in Roller Coaster Accident." March 31, 1980. (June 19, 2015) https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1346&dat=19800331&id=6TYwAAAAIBAJ&sjid=JfsDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6881,6323403&hl=en
  • The Lincoln Star. "Roller Coaster Train in Omaha Leaves Trestle." July 25, 1930. (June 16, 2015) http://www3.gendisasters.com/nebraska/13295/omaha-ne-amusement-park-accident-july-1930
  • Luna, Claire. "Family, Disney Settle Suit Over Ride Death." Los Angeles Times. Dec. 3, 2005. (June 18, 2015) http://articles.latimes.com/2005/dec/03/local/me-ride3
  • McDonald, Andy and Jan Diehm. "The Deadliest Amusement Park Rides." The Huffington Post. Aug. 9, 2013. (June 14, 2015) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/09/deadliest-amusement-park-rides_n_3728188.html
  • McFadden, Robert D. "Roller Coaster Hurtles Wrong Way, Killing 2." The New York Times. Aug. 30, 1999. (June 17, 2015) http://www.nytimes.com/1999/08/30/nyregion/roller-coaster-hurtles-wrong-way-killing-2.html
  • Merrill, Jamie. "Battersea Park Big Dipper Disaster in 1972: The Funfair Tragedy the Nation Forgot." The Independent. June 6, 2015. (June 14, 2015) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/battersea-park-big-dipper-disaster-in-1972-the-funfair-tragedy-the-nation-forgot-10302238.html
  • The Morning Call. "Roller Coaster Ruling." Feb. 4, 2000. (June 17, 2015) http://articles.mcall.com/2000-02-04/news/3295784_1_roller-coaster-ruling-gillian-s-wonderland-pier-coaster-car
  • National Weather Service. "Lightning – Frequently Asked Questions." June 28, 2014. (June 16, 2015) http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream/lightning/lightning_faq.htm
  • The New York Times. "Coaster Kills 3 at Coney Island." July 28, 1915. (June 17, 2015) http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9406E1D81E3EE033A2575BC2A9619C946496D6CF
  • The New York Times. "Coaster Men Exonerated." Aug. 4, 1915. (June 17, 2015) http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=980CE3DE133FE233A25757C0A96E9C946496D6CF
  • Orlando Sentinel. "14-year-old Killed, 6 Hurt in Roller-coaster Collision." April 22, 1997. (June 19, 2015) http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1997-04-22/news/9704210905_1_harry-baker-roller-coaster-down-the-track
  • Pelletier, A. R. and J. Gilchrist. "Roller Coaster Related Fatalities, United States, 1994 – 2004." Injury Prevention. 2005. (June 14, 2015) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1730261/pdf/v011p00309.pdf
  • Pfeifer, Stuart et al. "Disneyland Rider Dies in Roller Coaster Accident." Los Angeles Times. Sept. 6, 2003. (June 18, 2015) http://articles.latimes.com/2003/sep/06/local/me-disney6
  • Public Broadcasting Service. "A Century of Screams: The History of the Roller Coaster." (June 14, 2015) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/coney/sfeature/history.html
  • United Press International. "Authorities Today Investigated a Weekend Triple-loop 'Mindbender' Roller Coaster." June 16, 1986. (June 17, 2015) http://www.upi.com/Archives/1986/06/16/Authorities-today-investigated-a-weekend-triple-loop-Mindbender-roller-coaster/9811519278400/
  • W.F. Mangels Company. "Electric Scenic Railway Car for High Speed Pleasure Railways." (June 17, 2015) http://www.coneyislandhistory.org/collection/index.php/ObjectDetail/Show/object_id/70/search_mode/search


Disney World and Its Tangled Web With CIA Ops

Disney World and Its Tangled Web With CIA Ops

It may be the 'happiest place on Earth,' but the story behind Florida's Disney World isn't so sweet. Stuff They Don't Want You To Know takes a look.