This is a summary of notable incidents that have taken place at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. 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, deaths, or significant crimes that occur at Disneyland. While these incidents were required to be reported to regulatory authorities for investigation, attraction-related incidents 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 break 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.
According to a 1985 Time magazine article, fewer than 100 lawsuits are filed against Disney each year for various incidents.
- In 2014, at least 40 visitors of Disneyland contracted measles at the park between December 17–20, triggering an outbreak, especially due to the presence of individuals who were intentionally left unvaccinated due to religious beliefs or the discredited belief that vaccines cause autism. The likely patient zero was speculated to be an international visitor to the park. Over 127 cases of measles have been traced to the Disneyland outbreak, spanning 8 states and 2 additional countries (Mexico and Canada). Prior to the 2014 outbreak, two other outbreaks of measles have been linked to Disneyland, both of them much smaller in scale. In 1982 an outbreak resulted in 14 cases, while an outbreak in 2001 had only 5 cases reported. The outbreak is credited with inspiring California Senate Bill 277, which removes personal belief exemptions from school vaccination requirements.
- On September 14, 1985, 7-year-old Jennifer Reid was crushed to death by the wheels of a tour bus. According to police, she and her uncle were searching for their vehicle when she fell under the tour bus. Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene.
- In April 2003, a 36-year old stage technician fell 60 feet from a catwalk in the Hyperion Theater, prompting an investigation by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA). He did not regain consciousness following the incident and died on May 18. In October, Cal/OSHA fined the Disneyland Resort $18,350 for safety violations related to his death.
- On September 27, 2011, during a performance of the former attraction, Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular, the flying carpet during "A Whole New World" had a cable snap, causing it to flip over and suspend the stunt doubles for Aladdin and Jasmine upside-down in the air. The incident was filmed by multiple guests, meaning multiple angles of the event are available on YouTube. The show was immediately cancelled as well as all performances for the rest of the day. The flying carpet was removed afterwards, and Aladdin and Jasmine simply sang on stage now (but still lip-synced to Brad Kane and Lea Salonga's performances). The carpet finally returned on March 17, 2013 to thunderous applause.
- On July 29, 2005, 25 guests were injured when one train crashed into another, with 15 guests being taken to local hospitals for treatment of minor injuries. An investigation showed that a faulty brake valve, installed a few days earlier by Disney (instead of by the ride manufacturer), was the cause.
- On July 22, 2011, 23 people were rescued from California Screamin' by firefighters when a person's backpack fell out of one of the trains and landed on the track, causing the orange train to stop just after the loop but before the next block brake. It re-opened two days later after the train was winched up the next hill, had its damaged wheels replaced and allowed to complete the circuit.
- On May 2, 2016, another passenger using a selfie stick caused park officials to shut down and evacuate the attraction for over an hour. Selfie sticks have been banned at Disney parks since the same ride was shut down due to one in June 2015.
- On October 2, 2014, 45 riders got stuck on the ride for 90 minutes before being rescued. No injuries were reported.
- On February 18, 2012, 53-year-old Glenn Horlacher was arrested after being involved in an altercation with a Disney security guard. Onlookers believed him to be drunk, however, no charges of drunk and disorderly were ever filed. He was pepper sprayed. A park spokeswoman stated that the security guard was taken to a local hospital, where he was treated and released. Glenn was taken into custody by Anaheim police and released shortly thereafter. Multiple videos of the incident have been posted to YouTube.
- On July 8, 1974, cast member Deborah Gail Stone, 18, of Santa Ana, California was crushed to death between a revolving wall and a stationary platform inside the attraction during its opening week. She was in the wrong place during a ride intermission; it was unclear whether this was due to inadequate training or a misstep. Guests reported hearing a blood-curdling scream, but were unsure if it was part of the soundtrack, the attraction having just opened. The attraction was subsequently refitted with breakaway walls.
- On September 5, 2003, 22-year-old Marcelo Torres of nearby Gardena, California died after suffering injuries in a derailment of the ride. The cause of the accident was determined to be improper maintenance and training of Disney cast members. Investigation reports and discovery by Torres' attorney confirmed his fatal injuries occurred when the first passenger car collided with the underside of the locomotive. The derailment was in part the result of a mechanical failure, which occurred as a result of, among other things, omissions during a maintenance procedure of at least two required actions, the left side upstop/guide wheel on the floating axle of the locomotive was not tightened in accordance with specifications; and a safety wire was not installed and/or completed the necessary maintenance required by said tagging system, all with knowledge of Disney management and personnel. Following the accident, the floating axle was removed from all locomotives.
- On December 24, 1998, a heavy metal cleat fastened to the hull of the boat tore loose, striking one cast member and two park guests. One of the guests, Luan Phi Dawson, 33, of Duvall, Washington, died of a head injury. The normal non-elastic hemp rope (designed to break easily) used to tie the boat off was improperly replaced for financial reasons (a common theme of the Pressler/Harris era) by an elastic nylon rope which stretched and tore the cleat from the ship's wooden hull. Disney received much criticism for this incident due to its alleged policy of restricting outside medical personnel in the park to avoid frightening visitors (scrutiny dating back to the Mel Yorba stabbing of 1981), as well as for the fact that the cast member in charge of the ship at the time was not trained on the attraction. Due to this incident and the way it was handled, Disney reinstated lead foremen to many rides, and the Anaheim police began placing officers in the park to speed response. This accident resulted in the first guest death in Disneyland's history that was not attributable to any negligence on the part of the guest. California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health investigated the incident and found fault with the training of a park employee, who placed the docking line on the cleat even though the cleat was not intended to help brake the ship, but only hold it in place once it had already docked. Ride procedures call for the ship's captain to reverse the ship if it overshoots the dock and then re-approach the dock at the correct speed. Cal/OSHA fined Disneyland $12,500 for the error, while the theme park settled a lawsuit with the victim's survivors for $25,000,000, according to a Los Angeles Times estimate.
- On May 6, 2001, 29 people suffered minor injuries when a tree fell over. It is believed that it was over 40 years old, and one of the park's original plantings.
- The Stagecoaches and Conestoga Wagons from the park's early years were very prone to tipping, and after a lawsuit was filed in 1959, Walt himself ordered them to be scrapped.
- On June 25, 2000, 23-year-old Cristina Moreno of Barcelona, Spain exited the ride complaining of a severe headache. She was hospitalized later that day where it was discovered that she had brain hemorrhaging. She died on September 1 of a brain aneurysm. Her family's subsequent wrongful death lawsuit against Disney stated that Moreno died due to "violent shaking and stresses imposed by the ride." In an interlocutory appeal (an appeal of a legal issue within the case prior to a decision on the case's merits), the California Supreme Court held that amusement parks are considered "common carriers" similar to commercially operated planes, trains, elevators, and ski lifts. This ruling imposes a heightened duty of care on amusement parks and requires them to provide the same degree of care and safety as other common carriers. Disney settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum after the interlocutory appeal but before a decision was rendered on the case's merits. Moreno's medical costs were estimated at more than $1.3 million.
- On May 15, 1964, 15-year-old Mark Maples of Long Beach, California, was injured after he stood up in a car and fell out. It is reported that his restraint was undone by his ride companion. He died three days later as a result of these injuries. He was the first fatality in park history.
- On January 3, 1984, 48-year-old Dolly Regina Young of Fremont, California was thrown from a car and struck by the next oncoming one. An investigation showed that her seat belt was found unbuckled after the accident. It is still unclear whether she deliberately unfastened it or if it malfunctioned. Following the accident, the location where she was found became informally known amongst cast members as "Dolly's Dip". Ones sent to investigate later stated all they found were two legs sticking out from under the car that struck her, likening it to the Wicked Witch of the East.
- On June 17, 1966, 19-year-old Thomas Guy Cleveland of Northridge, California, was struck and killed by the monorail, which then literally tore his body apart (in modern gaming terms, "gibbed") and dragged pieces of it forty feet down the track. This occurred on Grad Nite while he was trying to sneak into the park by climbing onto the track. The security guard who called to him later stated he had to "hose the kid off the underside".
- The park received roughly twelve lawsuits relating to the attraction, all of which they lost; the legal department reportedly always shuddered when such a lawsuit was filed. Those related to the mules being unpredictable and as a result, causing injuries. After one too many, the attraction were finally closed.
- On August 21, 1967, 17-year-old Ricky Lee Yama of Hawthorne, California was killed while jumping between two moving trains as the ride was passing through a tunnel. He stumbled and fell onto the track, where an oncoming train crushed him beneath its wheels and dragged his body a few hundred feet before it was stopped by a ride operator. A cast member who went to investigate later said that his head had been split in two. The ride had only been open for one month at the time.
- On June 7, 1980, 18-year-old Gerardo Gonzales of San Diego, California was crushed and killed by the ride while jumping between moving trains. The accident occurred as the ride entered the SuperSpeed tunnel. Following the accident, cast members (particularly Jungle Cruise skippers) informally referred to the ride as the PeopleRemover.
- On January 21, 2001, a 6-year-old girl lost two-thirds of her left index finger while playing with a toy rifle that was mounted on a turret on the Island's Fort Wilderness. Disney did not report this incident to OSHA, as serious injury accidents only need to be reported if the incident occurred on a ride. OSHA stated that the incident did not fall under their review, as accidents and injuries that occur on playground equipment do not qualify for OSHA reporting. The turret was closed thereafter, and Fort Wilderness was shuttered several years later.
- On June 22, 1973, 18-year-old Bogden Delaurot, of Brooklyn, New York, drowned while attempting to swim across the attraction. he and his ten-year-old brother stayed on Tom Sawyer Island past closing time by hiding in an area that is off-limits to guests. When they wanted to leave, they decided to swim across the river because the rafts to and from the island had long since shut down for the night. He carried his brother on his back, who was unsure how to swim, but he drowned halfway through. His body was found the next morning. His brother was able to stay afloat by "dog paddling" until a ride operator in a passing boat rescued him.
- On June 4, 1983, 18-year-old Philip Straughan of Albuquerque, New Mexico drowned in the attraction while trying to pilot a rubber emergency boat from Tom Sawyer Island that he and a friend had stolen from a restricted area.
- On September 22, 2000, 4-year-old Brandon Zucker fell out of a ride vehicle and suffered severe brain damage. Sadly, he died in 2009. He never talked or walked after the incident. On October 7, Disneyland changed its 911 emergency policy, instructing ride operators to call 911 for emergencies first instead of calling the Disney security center in order to speed emergency staff to any incident on park property. Records showed that more than five minutes passed between the time he fell out of the ride vehicle and emergency personnel were contacted. A Disney spokesman claimed that the timing of this policy change and the incident were coincidental.
- On April 17, 1994, a 30-year-old man fell about twenty feet from one of the cabins in the ride and into a tree near the Alice in Wonderland ride. Paramedics helped him down and took him to the Western Medical Center, where he was released after being treated for minor injuries. He claimed he had simply fallen out of the ride and filed a negligence lawsuit against Disney, seeking $25,000 for neck and back issues he claimed to have sustained. However, he later admitted that he had in fact jumped from the ride, and the suit was dropped shortly before the trial date on September 26, 1996. The ride closed permanently on November 9, 1994, though this was unrelated to the jumping incident. It was officially shut down because it would be too costly to make it wheelchair accessible, as well as a cracked roller battery support in the Matterhorn that would be impossible to fix without partially demolishing the mountain. A very similar incident occurred in 1999 on the ride at Walt Disney World. In this case, Disney was found to have violated federal safety codes after a custodial worker fell to his death while cleaning a platform.
- On August 14, 1979, 31-year-old Sherrill Anne Hoffman became ill after riding the ride. At the station, she was unable to get out of the vehicle. Cast members told her to stay seated while it was removed from the track. However, other ride attendants did not understand that it was to be removed, and sent her through the ride a second time. She arrived back at the station semi-unconscious. She was subsequently taken to Palm Harbor Hospital, where she died seven days later after being in a coma. The coroner's report attributed her death to natural causes, due to a heart tumor that became dislodged and entered her brain. A subsequent lawsuit against the park was dismissed.
- On March 16, 2005, a 4-year-old boy broke a finger and severed the tip of his thumb when his fingers were pinched between the boat and the dock while passengers were unloading. The ride was closed for nearly two days while state authorities investigated the accident. Authorities directed Disneyland to lower and repair rubber bumpers along the dock's edge, and to make sure workers tell passengers to keep their hands in the boat while it docks.
- On May 28, 2013, a small explosion in a trash can caused Mickey's Toontown to be evacuated. Officials believe the explosion was caused by a plastic bottle filled with dry ice. The bomb squad was called to investigate. No injuries were reported. Christian Barnes, a 22-year old former concession stand worker from Long Beach, California was later arrested in connection to the explosion and was accused of creating and detonating the two dry ice bombs. He pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of possession of a destructive device and was sentenced to 36 days in jail, three years of informal probation and 100 hours of community service, and was ordered to stay away from Disneyland.
- In 1976, an unidentified woman who sued Disney Parks Corporation, claimed that one of the Three Little Pigs at the "It's a Small World" attraction grabbed and fondled her. She claimed to have gained 50 pounds as a result of the incident and sued Disney for $150,000 in damages for assault and battery, false imprisonment and humiliation. The plaintiff dropped charges after Disney's lawyers presented her with a photo of the costume, which had only inoperable stub arms, a common feature among the shorter characters that was eliminated in later years.
- A 1981 case tried an employee who was playing Winnie the Pooh in 1978. It was alleged that he slapped a child and caused bruising, recurring headaches, and possible brain damage. He testified that she was tugging at his costume from behind. When he turned around, he accidentally struck her in her ear. At one point, he entered the courtroom after recess in the Pooh costume and responded to questions while on the witness stand as Pooh would, including dancing a jig, which sent the entire courtroom into hysterics. Appearing as Pooh showed the jury that the costume's arms were too low to the ground to slap a girl of the victim's height. The jury acquitted him after deliberating for 21 minutes. (Some time later, the actor confided that he had actually hit the girl on purpose to make her stop yanking his costume.)
- In August 2012, the Black family from Spring Valley, California claimed a man playing the White Rabbit was being racist. They went to Disneyland for their cousin's birthday. Six-year-old Jason Black Jr. says the White Rabbit refused to hug him and turned his back away. His brother, Elijah, said the White Rabbit kept flicking off his hand when he tried to hold hands with him. Their mother, Annelia Black, asked him if her son could sit on his lap, however, she claims he simply waved his hand at her. She also says she saw him hug, kiss, pose, and play with white and Asian children. The Blacks sent FOX 10 news photos of them posing with the White Rabbit while also showing him hugging a Caucasian boy. On November 13, Disneyland sent an apology letter and offered $500 in passes. They didn't sign because Disney wouldn't tell them if the man playing the White Rabbit was still there. On February 4, 2013, they filed a lawsuit for civil rights violation. Later, on December 30, Disneyland settled the lawsuit.
- On March 7, 1981, 18-year-old Mel Yorba of Riverside, California was fatally stabbed with a knife during a fight in Tomorrowland. His family sued the park for US$60 million. The jury found the park negligent for not summoning outside medical help (the nurse tending to the situation believed there was an unwritten policy stating that outside paramedics could not be summoned into the park at all, as it would scare other guests and ruin the experience for them, so Yorba was sent in an unmarked company van with no Code 3 equipment and, bar oxygen, no life-saving equipment; the van was legally slowed by speed limits and traffic, and went to the nearest hospital, which was not a certified trauma center), and awarded the family US$600,000. The park was also heavily scrutinized for their handling of the situation, and changes were immediately made.
- On March 7, 1987, a 15-year-old was fatally shot in the parking lot. The incident began as an early morning confrontation between rival Samoan and Tongan gang members before escalating into a brawl. Another participant was convicted of second-degree murder, but the conviction was subsequently overturned by a state appellate court.
- Gang violence at Disneyland became commonplace after the opening of Videopolis, which was initially a dance club. After one too many incidents, Videopolis became a theatre in 1990.
- On October 19, 2013, Michael Zarcone, the 63-year-old founder of a sub-acute children's hospital in Saratoga, California, died while visiting the park.
Disneyland has undergone several closures during its lifetime:
- The park has closed multiple times in the past due to inclement weather, including one bizarre instance in 1983 when a freak tornado occurred in Tomorrowland and cherry pickers had to be brought in to rescue guests from the Skyway, which had lost all power.
- November 22, 1963 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
- August 6, 1970 due to an anti-Vietnam War riot instigated by the Youth International Party (or Yippies), who had instigated a similar riot two years earlier at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
- September 11, 2001 due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and fears that hijacked planes could hit the resort (Both parks never opened that day, while all four parks at Walt Disney World had to be evacuated; this was due to timezone differences.)
- It is often stated that the park closed after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. This is not true, as it remained open, but the rides were shut down for inspection (it had been built with earthquakes in mind).
- On September 3, 1994, a 74-year-old man jumped to his death from his 9th floor balcony at the hotel. This was the first suicide known to be committed at the Disneyland Resort.
- On July 6, 1996, a 23-year-old man either jumped or fell to his death from the 14th floor of the hotel. He was not a guest, and had climbed over several balconies.
- In 1998, a 23-year-old Walt Disney Co. employee jumped from the 14th floor but survived the fall.
- On May 2, 2008, a businessman leapt to his death from his 14th floor balcony at the hotel. He was later identified as John Newman, Jr., a dentist from Santa Cruz, California.
Mickey & Friends Parking Structure
- On October 17, 2010, a 61-year-old man from Hickman, California jumped to his death from the top floor of the Parking Structure. He left behind a note citing "personal issues" for his suicide.
- On April 2, 2012, a 23-year-old man was found near the northwest corner of the Parking Structure, and was pronounced dead at the scene. At the time, it was investigated as a suicide, but there were no witnesses that saw him jump.
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