Amusement Park Accidents: What You Should Know

Edited by Admin
Amusement Park Accidents: What You Should Know

Amusement Park Accidents


If you’ve ever taken a ride on a roller coaster, zipped down a zipline, seen the skyline from a ferris wheel, careened down a water slide, taken a spin on a merry-go-round, bumped bumpers in a bumper car, or bounced on a bungee, you know the unique thrill that comes from these kinds of fun activities. In recent years, new amusement park rides have become higher, faster, and more thrilling, designed to satisfy patrons who often hold annual passes and are looking for new experiences. You may also be aware of spectacular accidents that have occurred in Canadian amusement parks, including the 1986 crash of the Mindbender roller coaster at the Edmonton Mall in 1986 that caused three fatalities, and the less serious 2010 incident with the Scorpion ride at the 2010 Calgary Stampede that caused ten injuries. You may also remember reports about more recent incidents in the US, such as the Kentucky water slide design that led to a child’s decapitation and incident in Omaha where a girl’s long hair became tangled in a carnival ride. These incidents are often covered extensively by news outlets and may be accompanied by video taken by bystanders, creating the impression that such accidents are common. However, in Ontario, amusement parks remain relatively safe, with few fatal incidents, and fewer than fifty serious incidents per year.


In Ontario, the Technical Standards and Safety Authority inspects amusement devices in order to be sure they conform to the Technical Standards and Safety Act.


The Amusement Device safety program requires the TSSA to do the following:

  • Review and register rides
  • Issue permits for each ride in the current operating season
  • License operators
  • Conduct inspections and incident investigations
  • Deliver public awareness campaigns throughout the province


Before a new amusement device is authorized for operation, TSSA performs an on-site inspection. A permit will be issued once a device is found to conform with the requirements of the Act. Inspections are also performed at the beginning of each new season, or whenever a device has been modified, and the TSSA routinely does more than 2,000 inspections per year.


In addition, the insurers of amusement parks require inspections by their own personnel, and better parks hire third-party inspectors to ensure that safety is maximized. However, despite all of these precautions, accidents do happen.


How Safe are Amusement Parks in Ontario?


In 2016 in Ontario, the TSSA reported 902 reported safety incidents from a range of amusement devices. Of these, 41 injuries serious resulted, as well as 828 minor injuries. (It is suspected however, that many minor injuries go unreported.)


One of the most important statistics to emerge from this report, however, is that only 4% of incidents were found to be caused by non-compliance by owners and operators not adhering to legislation and/or safety standards. That means that 96% of accidents that took place involving amusement devices were caused by the behaviour of riders. The most common cause of injury is impact with rides and falls during loading or unloading. The type of amusement device also matters; close to one-third of all safety incidents reported happened on water slides, although these rides account for only 10% of total rides.


If You’ve Been Injured


If you or a family member has been injured on an amusement device, contact a personal injury lawyer for advice. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, you may be eligible for compensation. Questions to be answered include:

  • What caused the injury?
  • Who is legally responsible for the injury?

Factors at play may include:


  • Mechanical failure. The fatal Edmonton Mall incident was attributed to design and manufacturing flaws in the German-made device; in 1998, a man died at the Ottawa Exhibition after his bungee-style ride harness detached. While amusement parks and those responsible for inspecting them usually do excellent work, structural problems such as metal fatigue or weak welds are difficult to spot. And safety belts, lap bars, or other equipment can be damaged while the ride is operating, and thus escape detection.

  • Operator Behaviour. Sometimes inexperienced or inattentive operators can be responsible for injuries. They may stop a ride abruptly, for example, or expect patrons to exit when their car is too far from the platform. They may fail to keep children who are too small for the equipment from riding. They may fail to maintain equipment properly, or, in the case of those setting up for fairs and other events, may not assemble the equipment properly.


  • Rider Behaviour. As mentioned above, rider conduct is the main cause of injury. Patrons may flout the rules regarding behaviour such as keeping hands inside or not standing up.


Sometimes the cause of an accident involves more than one of these factors.


Contact a personal injury law firm today to discuss the circumstances of your injury. If negligence can be proven, you stand a good chance of receiving compensation from the amusement park’s insurance company. A personal injury lawyer can help you to understand your options.