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.
- 1 Adventure Island Tampa Bay
- 2 Aquatica
- 3 Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
- 4 Busch Gardens Williamsburg
- 5 Discovery Cove
- 6 SeaWorld Ohio
- 7 SeaWorld San Diego
- 8 SeaWorld Orlando
- 9 References
Adventure Island Tampa Bay
- On September 10, 2011, a 21-year-old lifeguard was killed after being struck by lightning while clearing guests from the Key West Rapids ride tower due to inclement weather. No injuries to the guests were reported. The park installed 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 on arrival. 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 1, 2016, an orangutan escaped from its pen. Portions of the park went on lockdown and were evacuated. This was the second orangutan escape in a one-month time period.
- On May 12, 2016, a malfunction caused the ride to stop, stranding 64 riders 200 feet in the air for 1 hour. Busch Gardens officials evacuated all of the 64 riders safely, and no injuries were reported. Sheikra reopened on May 16, 2016.
- 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 possibly contributing to the victim's health problems.
- A few weeks after the Python roller coaster 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 on March 27, 1999, a stray goose collided with the front chariot in which Italian model Fabio was seated. Fabio suffered a minor cut to his nose, leaving him with a bloodied nose at the end of the ride.
- 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. They were released shortly thereafter. 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, stayed open with lightning as close as 10 miles away.
Big Bad Wolf
- On May 2, 1993, an employee was struck in the head by the popular suspended roller coaster while supposedly trying to uncover a camera specifically placed to monitor a portion of the coaster's track. The man died about a day later due to his injuries.
- On March 1, 2003, a contractor hired to perform off-season painting work was killed while painting the Big Bad Wolf. The man was painting on a high-reach vehicle which overturned. James City County fire officials said the man was dead by the time they reached him.
Loch Ness Monster
- On June 13, 1989, five park guests were injured on the Loch Ness Monster roller coaster when a train collided with a tree at an estimated 15 mph. The tree had been blown onto the coaster's tracks by a sudden storm. The collision happened on a slightly banked right turn that follows a minor descent from the coaster's second lift hill. There were supposedly twenty-five riders in the train at the time of the incident. A 16-year-old boy suffered a broken leg, but he was later released in stable condition. Four other people were treated for minor injuries. While the riders were stranded, another train began its usual course. The train plummeted down the ride's 114-foot major descent just before passing through the upper loop of the coaster's two interlocking loops. The stranded riders feared for the worst as the train passed through the first loop. The trapped riders were relieved when the ride's safety features functioned properly and stopped the other train. The train involved in the collision was severely damaged when the front right corner of the first car was totally torn away from the rest of the train.
Eagle One Monorail
- On August 11, 1990, a woman threw her four-month-old daughter onto the tracks of the park's monorail. The baby supposedly fell at least eight feet. The event occurred at one of the monorail's loading stations located at the Anheuser-Busch Hospitality Center. A monorail operator spotted the baby and immediately shut off the power. Although the baby did have extensive injuries to her head, she ultimately recovered. The mother was in an altercation with the baby's father when the baby was reportedly tossed over a fence and into the path of the monorail. Although the mother stated that the baby slipped out of her arms, that claim was dismissed due to the height of the fence. A source stated that the mother confessed to throwing her baby girl onto the tracks in order to prove to the baby's father that it was her baby and she could have done whatever she wanted to her. Both the father and mother were charged with child endangerment.
- On June 29, 2015, a 17-year-old girl's shoulder collar came loose during the ride. The park shut down the ride but reopened it fifteen minutes later, and stated the collar was added for guest comfort instead of safety.
- 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 prevent 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 man was found nude in the pool draped over the back of the killer whale named Tilikum. Although there was some media speculation of hypothermia, the autopsy report said that the cause of death was drowning and that there was trauma. 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 his scrotum having been "ripped open". Divers also found small pieces of the victim's body at the bottom of the pool.
- On February 24, 2010, Dawn Brancheau, a female 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 ponytail, and she drowned. Eyewitness trainers and audience members, however, stated that Tilikum dragged her into the water by her left forearm, near the end of the show. 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 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 its 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.
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