10 Deadliest Roller Coaster Accidents

Wild Wonder, Wonderland Pier, 1999
Faulty brakes contributed to the fatal 1999 accident at Gillian's Wonderland Pier. Martin Lewison/Flickr/Used Under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0 License

Ocean City, New Jersey, is a place where families go to relax and enjoy the beaches and boardwalk. Among the many recreational opportunities available to vacationers is Gillian's Wonderland Pier, an amusement park located on the north end of the boardwalk. With its festive carnival vibe and crowds of wide-eyed children, it's easy to forget it was the site of a fatal roller coaster accident in 1999.

The coaster, called the Wild Wonder, had been open only a couple of months when passengers loaded the doomed train on Aug. 28. The cars slowly rolled around a 90-degree curve before ascending the ride's first grade. Just before it topped out at the 41-foot (12.5-meter) crest, however, the drive chain disengaged prematurely and the anti-rollback device malfunctioned, sending the train tearing backward into the turn.

While the cars stayed on the tracks, the force of the curve ejected a mother and her daughter whose safety bar failed to hold them in their seats. The pair struck the roller coaster's walls and support columns, fell 10 feet (3 meters) to the ground below and were pronounced dead at the hospital a short time later. The wrong-way car continued to roll down the track, striking another train in the loading area and injuring two of its passengers [source: McFadden].

In the end, investigators determined that a faulty brake replacement caused the accident. The New Jersey Community Affairs Department fined the park's owner and the coaster's manufacturer $55,000 for safety-rule violations [source: The Morning Call].