Like at any amusement park, injuries do happen, and so do fatal injuries.
Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California first opened its doors in 1955, followed sixteen years later by its sister park Disney World in Orlando. These two epic theme parks have become larger than life, drawing in attendees from all around the world.
Like at any amusement park, injuries do happen, and so do fatal injuries. Of the 87 total deaths that have occurred at Disney parks, eighteen of those reported deaths have been employees of Disney (or independent contractors). That means that 21% of fatalities at Disney have involved the death of an employee, according to a study published by DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo. Let’s explore each of those incidents, from most recent to oldest.
Disney Employee Fatalities
August 29, 2019: A construction worker who was an independent contractor for Disney died when a steel plate fell on his head at a construction zone in the parking lot.
March 12, 2019: A worker fell from a roof or a cherry picker behind the France Pavilion in Epcot and did not survive the fall.
August 29, 2018: While two construction workers were working on the side of a hotel, the scaffolding collapsed, causing them to fall to their death. A subsequent lawsuit was filed against the construction companies involved.
July 9, 2018: Near the Pop Century and Caribbean Beach Resorts, a cast member was killed in an industrial accident. A utility cart fell on and crushed the employee, and workers were unable to lift the cart to save him.
April 12, 2015: A driving instructor at the Walt Disney World Speedway died in a car accident as part of the Exotic Driving Experience. He was actually a passenger in the car at the time, and the driver lost control.
March 13, 2011: An employee was working on the Primeval Whirl ride while it was closed for maintenance. He sustained a serious head injury and did not survive. Disney was fined by OSHA for a variety of safety violations, including a lack of guardrails.
August 17, 2009: During a rehearsal of Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a performer died from a head injury after doing a somersault.
August 6, 2009: An employee died at the Pirates of the Caribbean at Magic Kingdom in Orlando. He was one of the pirates and hit his head on a wall, sustaining serious injuries. Some reports say he slipped on a puddle while OSHA’s report says he was kicked lightly from behind. Regardless, he ultimately died in the hospital from cervical spine fracture complications.
July 5, 2009: The park’s monorails were attempting to switch tracks when one ended up backing into another. The crash killed the pilot of the second monorail, and a follow up investigation found multiple violations that OSHA fined the park for. New sensors and procedures were put in place and it was back in operation the next day.
November 27, 2007: An employee at the Primeval Whirl in Animal Kingdom fell from a restricted area and into the path of an oncoming ride vehicle. She sustained a brain injury and died four days later in the hospital. OSHA issued Disney $25,500 worth of safety violation fines.
February 11, 2004: A park employee dressed in the Pluto costume was run over by the Beauty and the Beast Float during a parade at Magic Kingdom. Disney was fined by OSHA for having employees in restricted areas.
April 22, 2003: A stage technician at the Hyperion Theater in Disney California Adventure fell from a 60-foot catwalk. He never regained consciousness, and OSHA fined Disney $18,350.
February 14, 1999: A custodian at Magic Kingdom was cleaning the Fantasyland Skyway station platform while the ride was off. A staff member must have been unaware of his presence and turned the ride on, knocking him off the seat to a 40-foot fall. OSHA fined Disney $4,500 for safety violations. The ride is now permanently closed.
November 12, 1992: An off-duty employee was sitting on the ledge of the Top of the World Restaurant at the Contemporary Resort when a swarm of bees appeared. He started swatting the bees, lost his balance, and fell 11 stories to his death.
August 1, 1987: An employee operating an ultralight plane crashed during a show’s rehearsal. He was practicing for the Skyleidoscope show at Epcot when the plane suffered structural failure and nose dove into the ground.
November 4, 1974: A construction worker died in a mini glue explosion at Magic Kingdom. His wife filed lawsuits against the relevant manufacturing and insurance companies.
July 8, 1974: A recent high school graduate who was working at the park was crushed to death on the America Sings ride, which is no longer in operation. The ride had only been open for a week, so when the employee stepped between two moving walls during intermission, it could have been a misstep or improper training.