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The 29 Most Awful Disney Incidents and Deaths

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Disney parks are among the most joyful and pleasant places on earth, but that doesn't mean horrible things don't happen in them. There have been a great number of tragic incidents, fights, sexual assaults, and deaths at Disneyland and Disney World. While it might be depressing to know that even places designed to be whimsical retreats can't escape grim reality, Disneyland deaths shouldn't come as a surprise. Any time you put a large number of people together with a large amount of machinery, things are bound to go wrong. 

In the six decades Disney World and Disneyland have been open, plenty of incidents have occurred and a lot has gone wrong. Whether it was a freak accident in a stage show, a ride derailing, or a kid sneaking into park at night, the causes of these Disney deaths greatly vary. Guests and cast members have died in both accidents and of natural causes while on rides. There have been stabbings and even suicides. While nothing happens to the vast majority of the tens of thousands of people who visit a Disney park every day, freak occurrences do happen - leading to fines, lawsuits, and settlements.

Here are some of the most tragic Disney deaths in the United States parks, along with a few other bizarre incidents - some of which resulted in injury, and others in hilariously frivolous lawsuits. These incidents and deaths at Disney World and Disneyland serve as reminders that is, indeed, a small world after all - a small, scary, death-filled world. 
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  1. 1

    Disneyland's First Death

    Disneyland's First Death is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The 29 Most Awful Disney Incidents and Deaths
    Photo: via pinterest
    In May 1964, Disneyland had its first fatality. 15-year-old Mark Maples was injured and died three days after he stood up in the Matterhorn Bobsleds and fell out of the car. It was later reported that his restraint had been undone by his ride companion.

    Listen to more crazy stories about death and chaos here.
  2. 2

    Paris Cast Member Dies in Phantom Manor

    Paris Cast Member Dies in Phan... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The 29 Most Awful Disney Incidents and Deaths
    Photo:  YouTube
    In April 2016, a cast member was electrocuted while performing maintenance on Phantom Manor, a "fun-filled mystery" with "ghoulish ghosts and spirits" that's part of Frontierland at Disneyland Paris. The attraction was closed while the death was investigated.
  3. 3

    Hyperion Theater Death

    Hyperion Theater Death is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The 29 Most Awful Disney Incidents and Deaths
    Photo: via yesterland
    On April 22, 2003, a stage technician fell 60 feet from a catwalk in the Hyperion Theater at Disney's California Adventure, prompting an investigation and fine by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA).

    The victim did not regain consciousness following the incident and died a month later.
  4. 4

    The Measles Outbreak

    The Measles Outbreak is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The 29 Most Awful Disney Incidents and Deaths
    Photo: via blogspot
    In December 2014, a measles outbreak originated in Disneyland, resulting in 133 cases of the disease, including 40 in visitors to Disneyland between December 17 and 20. Most of these were unvaccinated children. The likely patient zero would have been an international traveler visiting the park from a country currently experiencing an outbreak. 

    In total, at least 127 cases of measles have been directly traced to the Disneyland outbreak.
  5. 5

    1984 Matterhorn Death

    1984 Matterhorn Death is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The 29 Most Awful Disney Incidents and Deaths
    Photo: Ellen Levy Finch/via Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0
    On January 3, 1984, Dolly Young was killed when she was thrown from her Matterhorn Bobsled car, and struck by the next oncoming bobsled. A subsequent investigation found that her seat belt was not buckled, but because she was riding alone, it was never clear if she deliberately unfastened her belt or if it malfunctioned.
  6. 6

    Big Thunder Mountain Foot Incident

    Big Thunder Mountain Foot Inci... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The 29 Most Awful Disney Incidents and Deaths
    Photo: Michael Gray/via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0
    On March 10, 1998, a 5-year-old boy was seriously injured on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad when his foot became wedged between the passenger car's running board and the edge of the platform after the train temporarily paused.

    All of the toes on his left foot required amputation and Disneyland made major safety improvements to the ride.
  7. 7

    Sailing Ship Columbia Incident

    Sailing Ship Columbia Incident is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The 29 Most Awful Disney Incidents and Deaths
    Photo: Freebase
    On December 24, 1998, a metal cleat (a heavy pin designed to tie rope down) fastened to the hull of the Sailing Ship Columbia tore loose and flew into the crowd, striking one employee and two park guests. One of the guests subsequently died of a head injury. It was soon determined that the tie line the cleat was holding, which was normally an inelastic hemp rope designed to easily snap, had been replaced by a nylon rope that stretched to the point of tearing the cleat out.

    Disney was fined by OSHA and settled an eight figure lawsuit with the guest’s family. It was the first death in the park's history where negligence by a guest played no role in the incident.
  8. 8

    It's a Small World Breakdown

    It's a Small World Breakdo... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The 29 Most Awful Disney Incidents and Deaths
    Photo: via pinterest
    On November 27, 2009, It’s a Small World broke down while a guest with quadriplegia was on the ride. The guest was stuck in the "Goodbye Room," was unable to leave, and found himself forced to listen to the horrific earworm of the ride’s theme song.

    It took between 30 and 40 minutes before he was finally evacuated. He sued Disney for not having adequate evacuation procedures for disabled guests, and in March 2013, he was awarded $8,000.
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