This is a summary of notable incidents that have taken place at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. While the California Department of Safety and Health (CDSH) has ruled that some guest-related incidents are Disney's fault, the majority of incidents were due to negligence on the guests' part.
The term incidents refers to major accidents, injuries, deaths, and similar significant occurrences. While these incidents are required to be reported to regulatory authorities for investigation, attraction-related incidents usually fall into one of the following categories:
- Caused by negligence on the part of the guest. This can be refusal to follow specific ride safety instructions, or deliberate intent to violate park rules.
- The result of a guest's known, or unknown, health issues.
- Negligence on the part of the park, either by ride operator or maintenance.
- Act of God or a generic accident (e.g. slipping and falling) that is not a direct result of an action by any party.
In 1985, Time magazine reported that nearly 100 lawsuits are filed against Disney each year for numerous incidents.
Disney California Adventure
- On April 22, 2003, a 36-year-old stage technician died after falling 60 feet from a catwalk in the Hyperion Theater, prompting an investigation by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA). The victim did not regain consciousness following the incident and died on May 18, 2003. In October 2003, Cal/OSHA fined the Disneyland Resort $18,350 for safety violations related to the technician's death.
- On September 25, 2011; the flying carpet prop used during "A Whole New World" in Disney's Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular malfunctioned while flying throughout the theater, causing the carpet to flip over and suspend the actors playing Aladdin and Jasmine upside-down. The performance was immediately stopped and the theater evacuated. No injuries or deaths were reported.
- On July 29, 2005, 25 guests were injured when one train rear-ended another and 15 guests were transported to local hospitals for treatment of minor injuries. An investigation determined that the faulty brake valve which caused the collision, though it was installed and tested shortly before the accident, was of a less reliable make than the valve it replaced.
- On July 22, 2011, 23 people were rescued from California Screamin' by firefighters when a person's backpack fell out of one of the trains and landed on the track, causing the orange train to stop just after the loop but before the next block brake. It re-opened two days later after the train was winched up the next hill, had its damaged wheels replaced and allowed to complete the circuit.
- On May 2, 2016, a passenger using a selfie stick caused park officials to shut down and evacuate the attraction for over an hour. Selfie sticks have been banned at Disney parks since the same ride was shut down due to one in June 2015.
Mickey's Fun Wheel
- On October 2, 2014, 45 riders got stuck on Mickey's Fun Wheel for 90 minutes before being rescued. No injuries were reported.
- On July 8, 1974, an 18-year-old employee was crushed to death between a revolving wall and a stationary platform inside the America Sings attraction. She was in the wrong place during a ride intermission; it was unclear whether this was due to inadequate training or a misstep as the ride had been open for only two weeks by this time. The ride closed for two days, and was subsequently refitted with breakaway walls.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- On March 10, 1998, a 5-year-old boy was seriously injured when his foot became wedged between the passenger car's running board and the edge of the platform after the train temporarily paused before pulling into the unloading area. All of the toes on his left foot required amputation. This led to Disneyland making improvements to the ride, although the family claims the park would not acknowledge this injury as the reason.
- On September 5, 2003, a 22-year-old man died after suffering severe blunt force trauma and extensive internal bleeding in a derailment of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster that also injured ten other riders. The cause of the accident was determined to be improper maintenance. Investigation reports and discovery by the victim's attorney confirmed the fatal injuries occurred when the first passenger car collided with the underside of the locomotive. The derailment was the result of a mechanical failure which occurred due to omissions during a maintenance procedure. Fasteners on the left side upstop/guide wheel on the floating axle of the locomotive were not tightened and safetied in accordance with specifications. As the train entered a tunnel, the axle came loose and jammed against a brake section, causing the locomotive to become airborne and hit the ceiling of the tunnel. The locomotive then fell on top of the first passenger car, crushing the victim. Some people blamed the new cost-conscious maintenance culture brought in by Paul Pressler and consultants McKinsey & Company in 1997, which included Reliability-centered maintenance.
- On December 24, 1998, a heavy metal cleat fastened to the hull of the Sailing Ship Columbia tore loose, striking one employee and two park guests. One of the guests, a 33-year-old man, died of a head injury. The normal tie line, an inelastic hemp rope designed to break easily, was improperly replaced for financial reasons by an elastic nylon rope which stretched and tore the cleat from the ship's wooden hull. Disney received much criticism for this incident due to its alleged policy of restricting outside medical personnel in the park to avoid frightening visitors, as well as for the fact that the employee in charge of the ship at the time had not been trained in its operation. After this incident, Disney reinstated lead foremen on most rides and the Anaheim Police Department placed officers in the park to speed response. This accident resulted in the first guest death in Disneyland's history that was not attributable to any negligence on the part of the guest. California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health investigated the incident and found fault with the training of the park employee who placed the docking line on the cleat. The cleat was not designed to help brake the ship and the employee should have been trained to recognize when the ship was approaching too fast. Ride procedures called for the ship's captain to reverse the ship if it overshot the dock and re-approach the dock at the correct speed. Disney was fined US$12,500 by Cal/OSHA and settled a lawsuit brought by the victim's survivors for an estimated US$25,000,000.
- Within a week of Disneyland's opening on July 17, 1955, a brakeman pulled the switch connecting the Disneyland Railroad's main line with a siding at Main Street, U.S.A. Station too soon as the Retlaw 2 freight train on the siding was passing the Retlaw 1 passenger train stopped at the station on the main line. The caboose on the end of the freight train had not made it fully across the switch when it was pulled and as a result, the caboose's front set of wheels correctly traveled along the siding while the rear set of wheels incorrectly traveled along the main line towards the passenger train, causing the caboose to swing to the side before colliding with a concrete slab and derailing upon impact. During the ensuing commotion, the erring brakeman, presumably to avoid disciplinary action, quietly left the scene of the accident, exited the park, and was not seen again. No injuries were reported and by the following year, the usage of sidings at stations on the DRR's main line came to an end.
- In February 2000, a tree in the Adventureland section fell onto the DRR's Holiday Red freight train while it was in motion, damaging the awnings and their supports on the gondolas as well as knocking off the cupola on top of the caboose before the train came to a stop. No injuries occurred as a result of this accident.
- At Tomorrowland Station in early 2004, accumulated diesel fumes in the firebox of the DRR's No. 3 locomotive exploded after its fire suddenly went out. The explosion ejected the engineer from the locomotive's cab and inflicted serious burns on the fireman.
- On May 6, 2001, 27 guests and two employees suffered minor injuries when a tree in Frontierland fell over. The tree was over 40 years old, one of the park's original plantings.
Indiana Jones Adventure
- On June 25, 2000, a 23-year-old woman from Spain exited the Indiana Jones ride complaining of a severe headache. She was hospitalized later that day where it was discovered that she had a brain hemorrhage. She died on September 1, 2000 of a cerebral aneurysm. Her family's subsequent wrongful death lawsuit against Disney stated that the victim died due to "violent shaking and stresses imposed by the ride." In an interlocutory appeal (an appeal of a legal issue within the case prior to a decision on the case's merits), the California Supreme Court held that amusement parks are considered "common carriers" similar to commercially operated planes, trains, elevators and ski lifts. This ruling imposed a heightened duty of care on amusement parks and requires them to provide the same degree of care and safety as other common carriers. Disney settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum after the interlocutory appeal but before a decision was rendered on the case's merits. The victim's medical costs were estimated at more than US$1.3 million.
It's a Small World
- On November 27, 2009, the ride broke down while a guest with quadriplegia was on the ride. The guest was stuck in the ride's "Goodbye Room", the final setting of It's a Small World, for between 30 and 40 minutes before being evacuated. As he suffered from medical conditions that were aggravated by the "blaring music" and inability to exit the ride, he sued Disney for not having adequate evacuation procedures for disabled guests on that ride, and for not providing the proper warning developed for those who could not evacuate during a ride stoppage. On March 26, 2013, the jury awarded the man US$8,000.
- On the night of February 28, 2015, a small fire broke out in a backstage area of the park relatively close to the attraction. The flames were reported around 9:20PM, and were said to have been caused by the fireworks show that was rescheduled earlier that evening due to rain. A park spokeswoman said that the flames were contained by around 9:48PM, and no injuries were reported. The attraction reopened on March 1, 2015.
- On May 15, 1964, a 15-year-old boy from Long Beach, California was injured after he stood up in the Matterhorn Bobsleds and fell out. It was reported that his restraint was undone by his ride companion. He died three days later as a result of those injuries. This was Disneyland's first fatality.
- On January 3, 1984, a 48-year-old woman was killed and decapitated when she was thrown from a Matterhorn bobsled car and struck by the next oncoming bobsled. The spot where she was killed is now called "Dolly's Drop" by cast members. An investigation found that her seat belt was not buckled. It is unclear whether the victim deliberately unfastened her belt or if the seat belt malfunctioned.
- In August 1967, a 17-year-old boy from Hawthorne, California was killed while jumping between two moving PeopleMover cars as the ride was passing through a tunnel. He stumbled and fell onto the track, where an oncoming train of cars crushed him beneath its wheels and dragged his body a few hundred feet before it was stopped by a ride operator. The attraction had only been open for one month at the time.
- In 1972, four teenage girls were riding the PeopleMover when one teenager lost her mouse ears cap. She and her cousin jumped onto the track to retrieve them. Realizing they had have to get on a different PeopleMover car, the first girl successfully got into a car, while the second girl ran through a tunnel and out the exit and then fell into a guard rail and onto the concrete 30 feet below. She broke an arm, hip, and pelvis; she had to be placed in a body brace and have a pin inserted into her leg. She sued Disney for not having any warnings about the exit.
- On June 7, 1980, an 18-year-old guest was crushed and killed by the PeopleMover while jumping between moving cars. The accident occurred as the ride entered the SuperSpeed tunnel and was very similar to the 1967 incident.
Rivers of America
- In June 1973, an 18-year-old New York resident and his 10-year-old brother stayed on Tom Sawyer's Island past closing time by hiding in an area that is off-limits to guests. When they wanted to leave the island, they decided to swim across the river, despite the younger brother not knowing how to swim. The 18-year-old attempted to carry his younger brother on his back and drowned halfway across. His body was found the next morning. The younger brother was able to stay afloat by "dog paddling" until a ride operator rescued him.
- On June 4, 1983, an 18-year-old boy from Albuquerque, New Mexico drowned in the Rivers of America while trying to pilot a rubber emergency boat from Tom Sawyer's Island that he and a friend had stolen from a restricted area of the island during Disneyland's annual Grad Nite. Both individuals were intoxicated at the time of the incident. The victim's mother sued Disneyland for negligence in even allowing her inebriated son onto the premise as well as the travel agency that arranged the trip for not properly supervising the teenagers. The lawsuits were unsuccessful.
Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin
- On September 22, 2000, a 4-year-old boy fell out of the ride vehicle and was dragged underneath the car, causing serious internal injuries, cardiac arrest and brain damage. On October 7, 2000, Disneyland changed its emergency policy and began instructing ride operators to call 911 first, instead of the Disney security center, in order to speed emergency staff to any incident on park property. Records showed that more than five minutes passed between the time the victim fell out of the ride vehicle and emergency personnel were contacted. A Disney spokesman claimed that the timing of this policy change and this incident were coincidental. An investigation ending in December 2000 concluded that a lap bar had malfunctioned and the victim was placed in the wrong seat in the ride vehicle, too close to the opening. Three months after the incident, the Permanent Ride Amusement branch of California's Division of Occupational Safety instructed Disney to install additional safety features on the ride. In January 2002, Disney settled with the victim's family, based on the cost of the victim's continuing medical care and suffering; Disney was not required to accept blame. The victim never fully recovered from his injuries and died in January 2009.
- On April 17, 1994, a 30-year-old man fell approximately twenty feet from one of the gondolas into a tree in front of Alice in Wonderland. Paramedics rescued him and took him to an area hospital for treatment for minor injuries. The man filed a $25,000 lawsuit against Disney, claiming he had simply fallen out of the ride. However, just before the trial date in September 1996, the victim admitted he had indeed purposely jumped out of the ride; the suit was subsequently dropped.
- On August 14, 1979, a 31-year-old woman became ill after riding Space Mountain. At the unload area, she was unable to exit the vehicle. Although employees told her to stay seated while the vehicle was removed from the track, other ride operators did not realize that her vehicle was supposed to be removed and accidentally sent her through the ride a second time. She arrived at the unloading zone semi-conscious. The victim was subsequently taken to Palm Harbor Hospital where she remained in a coma and died one week later. The coroner's report attributed the death to natural causes: a heart tumor had dislodged and entered her brain. A subsequent lawsuit against the park was dismissed.
- In 1983, an 18-year-old man from Quartz Hill, California, fell off Space Mountain and was paralyzed from the waist down. A jury verdict found that Disneyland was blameless in the accident that left the teenager partially paralyzed. During the trial the jury was taken to the park to ride Space Mountain, and several of the cars were brought into the courtroom to demonstrate how they work.
- On August 2, 2000, nine people suffered minor injuries when the ride's safety control systems caused the train to stop abruptly. This was Space Mountain's first mechanical problem since its opening in 1977.
- In April 2013, Disney voluntarily closed Space Mountain, the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and Soarin' Over California due to OSHA-related issues so employee safety protocols could be reviewed. Downtime for each attraction differed, with Space Mountain being closed the longest at one month. The safety review stemmed from seven OSHA fines that were initiated from a contractor injury in November 2012, where the worker fell down the outside of the Space Mountain building and broke several bones. OSHA fined Disney $235,000, and also fined the contracting company $61,000 for safety violations.
Storybook Land Canal Boats
- On March 16, 2005, a 4-year-old boy broke a finger and severed the tip of his thumb when the child's fingers were crushed between the boat and the dock while passengers were unloading. The ride was closed for nearly two days while state authorities investigated the accident. Authorities directed Disneyland to lower and repair rubber bumpers along the dock's edge, and to make sure ride operators inform passengers to keep their hands in the boat while it docks.
Tom Sawyer's Island
- On January 21, 2001, a 6-year-old girl lost two-thirds of her left index finger while playing with a toy rifle that was mounted on a turret on the Island's Fort Wilderness. Disney did not report this incident to OSHA, as serious injury accidents need to be reported only if the incident occurred on a ride. The girl was rushed to a hospital, but doctors never reattached her finger. OSHA stated that the incident did not fall under their review, as accidents and injuries that occur on playground equipment do not qualify for OSHA reporting.
- On May 28, 2013, two small explosions in trash cans caused the Toontown area of the park to be evacuated. Officials believe the explosion was caused by a plastic bottle filled with dry ice (or dry ice bomb) taken from a nearby ice cream stand. The bomb squad was called to investigate. No injuries were reported. A 22-year-old concession stand worker from Long Beach, California was accused of creating and detonating the two dry ice bombs. He pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of possession of a destructive device and was sentenced to 36 days in jail, three years of informal probation and 100 hours of community service, and was ordered to stay away from Disneyland for the rest of his life.
- In 1976, an unidentified woman sued Disney Parks Corporation because she claimed that one of the Three Little Pigs at the "It's a Small World" attraction grabbed and fondled her. She claimed to have gained 50 pounds as a result of the incident and sued Disney for $150,000 in damages for assault and battery, false imprisonment and humiliation. The plaintiff dropped charges after Disney's lawyers presented her with a photo of the costume, which had only inoperable stub arms, a common feature among the shorter characters that was eliminated in later years.
- An employee who was playing Winnie the Pooh in 1978 was alleged that he slapped a child and caused bruising, recurring headaches and possible brain damage. The worker testified that the girl was tugging at his costume from behind. When he turned around, he accidentally struck the girl in her ear. At one point, the employee entered the courtroom after recess in the Pooh costume and responded to questions while on the witness stand as Pooh would, including dancing a jig. Appearing as Pooh showed the jury that the costume's arms were too low to the ground to slap a girl of the victim's height. The jury acquitted the worker after deliberating for 21 minutes.
- In August 2012, a family claimed an employee playing as White Rabbit was being racist towards their 6-year-old son by refusing to hug him. Other reported activities involved refusal to hold hands, and refusal to allow the child to sit on the character's lap. The family claimed that the character interacted with white and Asian children. While Disney did offer an apology letter and park passes to the family, the family refused the offer and filed a lawsuit as Disney would not confirm if the employee was still employed. The lawsuit was settled on December 30, 2013.
- On March 7, 1981, an 18-year-old man was fatally stabbed with a knife during a fight with James O'Driscoll, 28, after the victim supposedly pinched O'Driscoll's girlfriend in Tomorrowland. His family sued the park for US$60 million. The jury found the park negligent for not summoning outside medical help and awarded the family US$600,000.
- On September 14, 1985, a 7-year-old girl from Torrance, California, was crushed to death beneath the wheels of a bus while on a trip to Disneyland with her uncle. The girl was walking across the parking lot with her uncle, looking for his car, when she fell under a moving charter bus that crushed her. Her parents said the bus crushed her while going into her uncle's car to go to the park. Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene.
- On March 7, 1987, a 15-year-old boy was fatally shot in the Disneyland parking lot. The incident began as an early morning confrontation between rival gang members before escalating into a brawl. Eighteen-year-old Keleti Naea was convicted of second-degree murder, but the conviction was subsequently overturned by a state appellate court.
- On December 27, 2017, a major power outage struck the Disneyland Park, that temporarily closed down rides mostly located in Toontown and Fantasyland. Rides that lost power had to be evacuated, however, no assistance from the local fire department were necessary, and no injuries were reported. All attractions were fully operational again later in the day. According to a Disneyland spokesperson, the outage was caused by a transformer failure.
- On September 3, 1994, a 75-year-old man jumped to his death from a 9th floor balcony of the Disneyland Hotel. This was the first suicide known to be committed at the Disneyland Resort.
- On July 6, 1996, a 23-year-old man either jumped or fell to his death from the 14th floor of the Disneyland Hotel. He was not a guest of the hotel, and had climbed over several balconies.
- In 1998, a 23-year-old Walt Disney Co. employee jumped from the 14th floor but survived the fall.
- On May 2, 2008, a 48-year-old man jumped from a 14th story balcony of the South Tower of the Disneyland Hotel, known as the Wonder Tower, to his death in a parking lot.
Mickey & Friends Parking Structure
- On October 17, 2010, a 61-year-old man from Hickman, California jumped to his death from the top floor of the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure. He left behind a note citing "personal issues" for his suicide.
- On April 2, 2012, a 23-year-old man was found near the northwest corner of the Mickey & Friends parking structure, and was pronounced dead at the scene. At the time, it was investigated as a suicide, but there were no witnesses that saw him jump.
- On November 26, 2016, a 40-year-old man jumped to his death from the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure just after 2:00 a.m. He was rushed to UC Irvine Medical Center and pronounced dead at 3:08 a.m.
- On February 13, 2017, a fire broke out on the second floor of the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure. Seven people were treated for smoke inhalation, while four cars were destroyed with an additional four receiving major damage.
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