When I think of Disneyland, I think of a place where all my favourite childhood movie characters come together to entertain the young and old. But it’s not all candyfloss and silly string. Like any amusement park, especially when it’s as big as Disneyland, there are bound to be accidents and mechanical problems. Disneyland does a good job of keeping these problems to a minimum, but there’s always a few exceptions. Sometimes it’s not Disney’s fault at all, but rather the visitors not listening to basic guidelines put in place to keep them safe. Sometimes it’s hard to protect people from themselves.
One of the first deaths at Disneyland was in 1964, on the Matterhorn Bobsleds. But before I tell you what happened, you have to know what the Matterhorn does. I didn’t know either so I had to do a quick web search. And according to Disney’s Wikipedia page;
“The Matterhorn is an attraction composed of two intertwining steel roller coasters. It is modelled after the Matterhorn, a mountain in the Swiss Alps. It is the first tubular steel continuous track roller coaster ever constructed.”
I had no idea what any of that meant, until I found this picture:
This pretty much sums it up. It’s a Rollercoaster that’s designed to look like you’re travelling down a mountain in the Swiss Alps. I assume the cars are meant to be the bobsleds.
I should’ve designed this ride. If I was going to call something the Matterhorn Bobsleds, I would’ve made sure that visitors were flown to the Swiss Alps, given a bobsled (made of wood. With splinters) and had a firm push down the mountain side. How would they get back you ask? That’s for them to figure out. It’s about the adventure. Now that I think about it, it may not have been the best idea for me to work at Disneyland.
Let’s get back on topic. In 1964, a 15 year old boy decided to unbuckle his seatbelt as the ride reached the top of the mountain. Seatbelts are there for a reason. Why? Because after he stood up, he lost his balance, fell from the car and landed on the track below. He fractured his skull and a few of his ribs, causing internal injuries. He died three days later.
And that ladies and gentlemen, is why you wear a seatbelt. One death not good enough for you? Well guess what, the same thing happened again in 1984. Due to the same problem. Someone unbuckling their seatbelt while on the ride.
The second death at Disneyland wasn’t necessarily caused by a visitor, but more the fault of a ride operator. In 1979, a 31 year old woman was riding Space Mountain; I don’t know what that is either. Back to Wikipedia!
“Space Mountain is a space-themed indoor steel roller coaster in Tomorrowland at Disneyland. Walt Disney originally conceived the idea of a space-themed roller coaster for Disneyland following the success of the Matterhorn Bobsleds.”
I don’t know how they classified the Matterhorn Bobsleds as a success. You would assume that if someone died, it would be less of a win for Disney? I suppose 15 years is long enough for the majority of people to forget about it. Ask anyone at Disney and they’d likely say,
‘You’ve got to break some legs to make an omelette.’
‘I said eggs. Got to break some eggs to make an omelette.’
Or maybe they’re all playing Rollercoaster Death Bingo? Get 5 deaths on a different rollercoaster in a row and you get a prize.
We’re going to assume this photo is an accurate description of what Space Mountain looks like on the inside. See all those blurry lights? They’re trying to make you think they’re travelling at the speed of light. Well the ride is called Space Mountain for a reason.
That photo may explain why a 31 year old woman died on this ride. Apparently she became sick and was unable to exit the ride at the designated area. Well it wouldn’t be realistic if you didn’t experience zero gravity, and throw up your lunch. The car she was in was supposed to be removed from the track, but a ride operator wasn’t aware of the situation, and started the ride again. When she eventually arrived at the unloading area, she was semi-conscious and was taken to the hospital where she died a week later. The doctors later determined that she had died of “natural causes.” A tumour on her heart had dislodged and travelled to her brain. And once again, the fault didn’t rely on any mechanical problem, but rather on the fault of a person.
In the end, if you don’t want to help someone win Rollercoaster Death Bingo, pay attention to the guidelines and safety regulations. It’s really not that hard.
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