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Roller coaster related fatalities, United States, 1994–2004
  1. A R Pelletier1,
  2. J Gilchrist2
  1. 1Division of Public Health Partnerships, National Center for Health Marketing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA
  2. 2Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr A R Pelletier
 Bureau of Health, Maine Department of Health and Human Services, 286 Water Street, Key Plaza, 8th Floor, 11 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333-0011;


Objective: To determine the number of fatalities related to roller coasters and examine factors common to multiple incidents.

Methods: A case was defined as the death of a person, which was associated with a roller coaster in the United States between 15 May 1994 and 14 May 2004. Cases were identified from four data sources: (1) Consumer Product Safety Commission, (2) Lexis-Nexis, (3) Medline, and (4) Saferparks.

Results: Forty people, ranging in age from 7 to 77 years, were killed in 39 separate incidents. Twenty nine (73%) deaths occurred among roller coaster patrons. Eleven fatalities resulted from external causes related to injuries from falls or collisions. Eighteen people died from medical conditions that might have been caused or exacerbated by riding a roller coaster; 15 were the result of intracranial hemorrhages or cardiac problems. Eleven (28%) deaths involved employees; all were caused by injuries.

Conclusions: Approximately four deaths annually in the United States are associated with roller coasters. Prevention of roller coaster fatalities is dependent on establishing an effective surveillance system for amusement ride injuries, engineering rides to better protect both patrons and employees, improving training and supervision of employees regarding safety precautions, and posting cautionary notices near roller coasters for people with specified medical conditions. Further research is needed on roller coaster related deaths resulting from intracranial hemorrhages and cardiac problems.

  • CPSC, Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • roller coaster
  • amusement ride
  • death

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  • * Amusement rides are categorized as fixed-site rides if they are permanently affixed to a site such as an amusement or theme park. Mobile rides are amusement rides that are moved from site to site as part of fairs and carnivals.

  • Funding: there was no external funding for this study. The work was conducted by federal employees with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Conflicts of interest: the authors report no conflicts of interest.

  • Role of funding source: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed and approved the manuscript.