Incidents at SeaWorld parks
This is a summary of notable incidents that have taken place at various SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment-owned amusement parks, water parks or theme parks. This list is not intended to be a comprehensive list of every such event, but only those that have a significant impact on the parks or park operations, or are otherwise significantly newsworthy.
The term incidents refers to major accidents, injuries, or deaths that occur at a SeaWorld Parks facility. While these incidents were required to be reported to regulatory authorities due to where they occurred, they 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 on anybody's part.
Adventure Island Tampa Bay
- On September 10, 2011, a 21-year-old lifeguard was clearing guests from the Key West Rapids ride tower due to inclement weather. The lifeguard was struck by lightning and killed. No guests were harmed. The park had a system in place to warn of incoming weather.
- On October 4, 2010, a 68-year-old man from Manchester, England was found unresponsive on Roa's Rapids. He was taken to a local hospital but was later pronounced dead. Preliminary findings found he died of natural causes.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Edge of Africa
- On May 12, 2002, a 21-year-old zoo keeper had her arm bitten off at the elbow by one of the park's lions as she was conducting a behind-the-scenes tour for her family. Park operations were not affected.
- On July 24, 2006, a 52-year-old man from Palm Harbor, Florida died shortly after riding the Gwazi roller coaster. After riding, he had difficulty breathing, then collapsed. Paramedics performed CPR, but the victim was pronounced dead two hours later. The medical examiner's report showed that he suffered from high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries. The ride was closed for an hour after the incident to confirm that it was functioning properly.
- On June 10, 1995, a 13-year-old girl from Pinellas Park, Florida, died shortly after riding Kumba due to a rare heart condition she had that triggered a heart attack. Her mother sued the park and won a judgment of $500,000. The jury cited the park for failing to administer CPR in a timely manner and slowing rescue efforts. The jury also cited the mother as 30% responsible for the victim's death, thereby reducing the award amount to $350,000. Reasons given were the mother's previous drug abuse during her pregnancy, possibly contributing to the victim's health problems.
- A few weeks after Python opened in 1976, a 6-foot-6, 340 pound, 39-year-old heart patient died after riding. The ride's previous tagline, "I challenged the Python and lived!", was subsequently removed.
- On June 27, 2001, a ride vehicle overturned along the course of the attraction. Multiple riders suffered minor injuries and two were taken to the hospital.
- On July 18, 2009, a 20-year-old employee from Lake Wales, Florida, fell approximately 35 feet (11 m) from the attraction. He was verifying that the gondola door was closed as the gondola left the station, and ended up being carried about 50 feet (15 m) along the ride. None of the guests on the ride were injured, and the employee was taken to the hospital.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg
- On the maiden voyage of the ride Apollo's Chariot in March 1999, a stray goose flew into the face of the Italian model Fabio during the 210-foot (64 m) drop, killing the bird. Fabio survived with only a cut on his nose.
- On August 5, 2010, a large 25 foot inflatable prop in the process of deflation was blown away by a strong wind during an oncoming storm and collided with one of Griffon's trains, sending 5 guests to a local hospital with minor injuries. The park stated that "The storm was too far to be dangerous", although some of the older rides that take longer to shut down were beginning to close. Griffon, however, stays open with lightning as close as 10 miles away.
- On January 29, 2009, a 59-year-old man from Sale, Greater Manchester, England, died having  cut his toe on coral while swimming with fish. The victim, a hemophiliac, was diagnosed with septic shock and organ failure, and doctors amputated both legs below the knee to stay infections. The coroner ruled the death "accidental", due to group B streptococcal septicaemia.
- On August 16, 2011, 3 guests and 5 employees were injured after lightning struck inside Discovery Cove. All 8 people were transported to a local hospital as a precaution. They were all released from the hospital by the next day. Park personnel had told guests to get out of the pools, the guests were sheltering at different locations inside the park when the incident happened.
SeaWorld San Diego
On October 11, 1979 a security guard shot and wounded a visitor moments after the man scuffled with guards and reportedly made a furtive move as though reaching for a weapon. The shooting was found to be justifiable.
- On July 6, 1999, a 27-year-old homeless man was found naked in the pool draped over the back of the killer whale named Tilikum. The man had died of hypothermia. He had visited SeaWorld the previous day, stayed after the park closed, and evaded security to enter the Orca tank. A spokesman for the sheriff's office said, "there was no obvious signs of trauma to the body. He wasn't chewed. He wasn't dismembered." However, the coroner reported finding scrapes and bruises all over the body, some of which had occurred after the victim had died. The coroner also discovered more significant injuries, such as puncture wounds on the victim's leg and the testicles being "ripped open". Divers also found small pieces of the victim's body at the bottom of the pool.
- On February 24, 2010, a 40-year-old trainer with 16 years of experience at the park died in another incident involving Tilikum. SeaWorld's head of animal training said that during a rubdown after the show Tilikum pulled the trainer into the water by her left arm and she drowned. The autopsy report said she died from drowning and traumatic injuries including removal of her scalp. This was the third time since being first put on public display that Tilikum has been involved in a human death. By February 27, SeaWorld Orlando whale shows resumed with trainers practicing increased caution and not joining the whales in the water. Seaworld has said these measures are temporary. SeaWorld announced they have invited experts from outside marine parks and aquariums to review SeaWorld's handling of killer whales and also Tilikum specifically. On August 23, 2010, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined the park US$75,000 for three infractions, two of which were directly related to this incident. One related citation was designated as "willful", and was "committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health". The other related citation was a "serious" violation relating to a missing safety rail at Shamu Stadium. At the time of the fine, SeaWorld called OSHA's findings "unfounded". Later hearings revealed that SeaWorld had concealed an earlier incident when another whale, Ikaika, had bitten a trainer in 2006. During a hearing where SeaWorld continued their challenge of OSHA's findings, former SeaWorld trainer Jeff Andrews - being presented as an expert - stated his opinion that the victim died as a result of a mistake she had made while near the water. He continued that he did not agree that Tilikum showed "aggressive behavior" during the incident. On May 31, 2012 Occupational Safety and Health Administration administrative law judge Ken Welsch cited SeaWorld for two violations in the death of the trainer and fined the company a total of $12,000. The final decision was issued on June 11, 2012.
- On November 21, 2012 an eight-year-old girl was bitten by a dolphin at an attraction which allows visitors to feed dolphins. The victim said she lifted up a paper tray used to hold fish, the dolphin saw it and lunged for it. The girl suffered three puncture wounds to her hand and required medical treatment.
- Robbyn Mitchell (2011-09-11). "Adventure Island employee dies after being struck by lightning". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
- Henry Pierson Curtis (2010-10-04). "Tourist dies after he was pulled from water ride at SeaWorld's Aquatica". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
- "Injured zoo keeper still in hospital". St. Petersburg Times. May 15, 2002. Retrieved 2009-06-04.
- "Lion bites off woman's arm". Eugene Register-Guard. May 13, 2002. Retrieved 2009-06-04.
- Mabe, Logan (May 13, 2002). "Lion bites off worker's arm". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2009-06-04.[dead link]
- "Man dies shortly after riding Busch Gardens roller coaster". Orlando Sentinel. 2006-07-25. Retrieved 2006-07-27.
- "Busch Gardens Patron Had Health Issues". AP. 2006-07-25. Retrieved 2006-07-27.[dead link]
- "Kumba rider had heart attack, autopsy finds". St. Petersburg Times. 1995-07-08. Retrieved 2006-08-15.
- "The Week in Business". Tampa Bay Business Journal. 1996-06-21. Retrieved 2007-01-04.
- "Classic coaster doomed?". St. Petersburg Times. 2006-09-19. Retrieved 2006-09-19.
- Rhino Rally accident hurts 2 riders
- Robbyn Mitchell (2009-07-19). "USF Football Player Injured in Busch Gardens Accident". St Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2009-07-19.
- "Bird slams into Fabio's face". CNN. 1999-03-31. Retrieved 2007-04-27.
- "Griffon riders injured during storm". wtkr. 2010-08-05. Retrieved 2011-01-20.
- "Dad died after cutting his toe on coral in Florida". Daily Mirror. 2009-01-30. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
- "Man dies after toe stub on coral". BBC News. 2009-01-29. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
- "8 Injured After Lightning Strike At Discovery Cove". WFTV. August 17, 2011. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
- Los Angeles Times, Oct. 12, 1979
- "Corpse Is Found on Whale". New York Times. 7 July 1999. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
- News, CNN (1999-07-06). "Man found dead in whale tank at Florida's SeaWorld". CNN. Retrieved 2010-05-13.
- Tim Zimmermann (2010-07-30). "The Killer in the Pool". OutsideOnline.com. Mariah Media Network, LLC. Retrieved 2012-04-08.
- Goldman, Russell (2010-02-24). "Whale Kills Trainer at SeaWorld's Shamu Stadium". ABC News. Retrieved 2010-02-25.
- Garcia, Jason (2010-02-24). "SeaWorld Orlando trainer killed in whale attack". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2010-02-24.
- "12,000-Pound Whale Kills SeaWorld Trainer". Orlando, Fla.,: CBS and AP. 2010-02-25. Retrieved 2010-02-25.
- PBS: A whale of a business
- AP (2010-02-27). "Hundreds Attend SeaWorld Whale Show After Trainer's Death". Fox News. Retrieved 2010-02-27.
- "Whales perform for first time since trainer's death". ABC. Retrieved 2010-02-27.
- AP (2010-02-26). "SeaWorld resumes killer-whale shows, without orca responsible for trainer's death". Silicon Valley MercuryNews.com. Retrieved 2010-02-27.
- "SeaWorld faces $75,000 fine, 3 citations". Orlando Business Journal. 2010-08-23. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
- Liston, Barbara, "SeaWorld trainers describe colleague's death by killer whale", Yahoo! News, September 23, 2011.
- "SeaWorld expert cites trainer mistake in death: lawyer". Reuters. 2011-11-19. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- Ken S. Welsch (Judge) (June 11, 2012). "Decision and Order" (pdf). Secretary of Labor v SeaWorld of Florida, LLC. OSHRC Docket No. 10-1705. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. pp. 2–3. Retrieved 2012-07-25. (Html version)
- Associated Press (2012-12-03). "Ga. girl recalls painful dolphin bite at SeaWorld". Retrieved 2013-02-17.