4 Nightmarish Disneyland Accidents That'll Ruin The "Happiest Place On Earth" For You
Even the so-called happiest place on earth can have some pitfalls now and then. Prime example? A British tourist lost parts of two fingers at Disney World in Florida Thursday morning. While riding the Orlando iteration of Pirates of the Caribbean, the poor guy somehow lost two of his fingertips. So far, it's unclear exactly what happened — whether it was the fault of the ride's operators, the park's safety measures, or an accident on the part of the man himself. But this much is now set in stone: The unfortunate man has joined an infamous list of nightmarish Disney accidents that's longer than you might expect.
The history of Disneyland is flecked with incidents such as these, and some much more severe; several people have died at the original Disneyland resort in California since its opening in 1955. Some of them have been the result of visitors failing to follow either overtly stated or common-sense precautions, but not all — sometimes, Disney screws up, with staggering consequences. Here are five instances of some tragic, awful accidents at Disneyland, and we won't blame you if you swear off the place afterwards.
1. A Six-Year-Old Girl Lost a Finger on Tom Sawyer's Island
Back in 2001, another Disneyland visitor suffered a tragic accident and lost a finger — but in this case, it was a little girl, and the story of what happened is just the worst. Six-year-old Priscilla Figueroa was playing on Tom Sawyer's Island, which you have to ride a staff-operated raft to get to. It's sort of (which ended up being very relevant) a big playground with cases, trees, a fort, and mounted model rifles.
While playing with one of the rifle turrets, Figueroa's finger got stuck. Her father claimed it was in the process of climbing down the ladder behind the turret, while the Los Angeles Times said an Anaheim paramedic report indicated she slipped with her finger caught in the trigger. In any case, two-thirds of her left index finger got pulled off, causing further damage to her tendons and forearm.
Controversially, Disneyland didn't report this accident to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), because a loophole in the reporting law meant they didn't have to. Tom Sawyer's Island, which doesn't have any actual moving rides, was technically classified as a playground, meaning the report wasn't mandated.
2. Four-Year-Old Boy Loses Finger on the Storybook Land Canal Boats
God, all these fingers. In 2005, a boy of just four years old had his finger and thumb smashed between the boat he was riding in — specifically, one of the Storybook Land Canal Boats, which normally take Disneyland's younger visitors on a low-energy, easygoing jaunt through classic Disney scenes — and the dock the boat was landing at.
His finger broke, and he lost the thumb altogether. According to the AP's report at the time, the subsequent investigation forced Disneyland to repair and improve the rubber bumpers along the edge of the dock, intended to prevent such grisly accidents, as well as to warn all passengers to keep their hands inside the boat.
3. Man Killed by the Monorail While Sneaking In
Disneyland's quickest and best form of in-park transit, the Monorail, has been around a long time — it debuted in 1959, four years after the park's opening, the first such system in America.
Just seven years later, in 1966, a terrible accident took the life of an outgoing high school student, on his graduation night no less. It wasn't a matter of fault on the park's behalf, in this case — 19-year-old Thomas Guy Cleveland was trying to sneak in by climbing onto the Monorail tracks, and despite the warning yells of a security guard, he was struck and killed.
4. Man Killed Waiting to Board the Sailing Ship Columbia
This, for historical reasons, is a pivotal accident in Disneyland's history — it's the first time a visitor died at Disneyland without any kind of mitigating reason. The incident with the Sailing Ship Columbia on Christmas Eve of 1998 had nothing whatsoever to do with the victim's actions, and everything to do with those of the park.
The culprit was a rope fastened to a metal cleat on the hull of the ship when it was docked. The cleat, according to the subsequent OSHA report, was not suitably strong enough to actually halt the ship's forward momentum, only to hold the ship there motionless while people got on and off. Furthermore, the staff member responsible for docking the ship had never received training on how to do so.
As the rope pulled against the cleat, it tore loose and flew toward the people waiting to board on the nearby shore. It struck three people, an employee and two visitors. Visitor Luan Phi Dawson was killed and his wife was disfigured in the accident, for which the family would ultimately receive a settlement of over $20 million.
5. Four-Year-Old Boy Injured Fatally in Toontown
Of all the attractions in Disneyland's Toontown, envisioned as the color-splashed home of Mickey Mouse and friends, Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin is one of the more kinetic — and most popular. It's also the site of one of the hardest-to-stomach accidents in Disneyland's history.
Seated in the far-right side of the taxi, closest to the open entrance, four-year-old Brandon Zucker fell out of the car while it was in motion and got caught underneath another against the tracks. He suffered severe injuries, cardiac arrest, and brain damage as a result, and Disneyland employees — following company protocol at the time — didn't call emergency services for a full five minutes after the accident, first notifying Disneyland security instead.
Disneyland subsequently changed that policy, though they maintained that the timing's proximity to Zucker's injury was mere coincidence. While Zucker did survive that horrible day, he never truly recovered, and died at age 13 in early 2009.