Imagine going to Disneyland in Anaheim, California for a day of fun at the "Happiest Place on Earth" but having that fun turn tragic because of an accident. That would be a tragic way to end a magical day. Luckily the park has a good history regarding Disneyland deaths. There have only been 10 reported deaths at Disneyland since the park opened in 1955. What is even more amazing is that only two of those deaths were actual accidents. The others could have been easily prevented had the victims obeyed safety measures and rules. Nine of the deaths were guests and one was a cast member.
1 - First Death on the Matterhorn
In May of 1964 a 15 year old California teen, Mark Maples lost his life while he was riding the Matterhorn Bobsleds. Rides have safety restraints and rules for a reason but Mark did not think those rules applied to him. He unbuckled his belt and tried to stand up while the ride was in motion. The bobsleds move fast down the track, removing the safety belt is dangerous. Standing can be fatal as Mark quickly discovered. When he stood up he was thrown from his bobsled on the tracks below where he suffered fractured ribs and skull along with several internal injuries. He died three days later after making the wrong choice and disregarding rules.
2- First Grad Night Death
Two years later in June of 1966 a 19 year old California resident, Thomas guy Cleveland, wanted to get into Disneyland for free on Grad night. However he would not get to enjoy a night in the park or any other night ever again for that matter. He climbed the 16 ft wall that surrounds the park and got on the Monorail track planning to climb down into the park. He never made it. A monorail train hit him and dragged him 30 to 40 feet down the track despite his attempt to climb onto a fiberglass canopy that as under the track. A security guard warned him that the train was coming but it was too late for Thomas. He would have been better off to pay the entrance fee to the park instead of paying with his life.
3 - First People Mover Death
A little over a year later in August of 1967 17 year old Ricky Lee Yama from California failed to follow safety instructions when he tried to hop from one car to another on The People Mover attraction as it passed through a tunnel where he could not be seen. He did not make to the other car. Oncoming cars crushed him to death as he fell in their path. If only he had followed the rules he could have enjoyed his day at the Happiest Place on Earth.
4- First Death by Drowning
The park went for almost 6 years before another incident resulting in death occurred in June of 1973. Once again someone trying to make his own rules lost his life at the Happiest Place on Earth. 18 year old Bogden Delaurot from Brooklyn, New York decided to break the rules and along with is 10 year old brother attempting to stay in the park after closing. The brotheres climbed the fence that separates Tom Sawyer Island from the burning settler’s cabin remaining on the island well after it closed for the day. A few hours later they left the island by swimming across the Rivers of America. Bogden carried his younger brother on his back because he could not swim. Halfway across the river he went under water. His brother dogpaddled remaining afloat until he was rescued by a boat ride operator. Searchers did not find Bogdens body until the next day.
5- The First Cast Member Accidental Death
On July 8, 1974 cast member Deborah Gail Stone of Santa Ana, California lost her life while working as a hostess on the attraction America Sings. She stepped to close to the rotating part of the theater and fell between the rotating and stationary wall where she was crushed to death. Disney closed the Theater for two days and installed safety measures so this type of accident would not happen again.
6- The Second Grad Night and People Mover Death
The park went 7 years before another person did something foolish resulting in death. On June 7, 1980, Grad night, recently graduated Gerardo Gonzales decided to try jumping from one care to another on the People Mover as it entered the SuperSpeed tunnel. He was crushed under the oncoming cars when he fell on the track. The cars dragged his body a few hundred feet before a ride operator was able to stop the ride. If only he had obeyed the rules he would have enjoyed the future that was ahead of him.
7- Grad Night Drowning
It seems like many incidents happened on Grad Night. On June 4, 1983, three years after Gerardo died on Grad Night 18 year old Phillip Straughan from Albuquerque, NM drown while breaking rules at Disneyland. Phillip and his friend, who were heavily intoxicated because they were celebrating graduation and Phillips 18th birthday decided to take a Disney raft without permission. They sneaked into a “cast member only” area, taking the raft and going for a ride. They did not know how to drive the raft and lost control. Philip was thrown from the boat when it struck a rock close to Tom Sawyer Island. His friend made it to shore to find help but Philip had already drowned. They found his body an hour later. Because he did not follow rules, Phillip would never see his 19th birthday.
8- The Second Matterhorn Death
Bad judgment and choices seem to repeat themselves. On January 3, 1984 48 year old Dolly Regene Young from Freemont, California died on the Matterhorn Bobsleds almost the same way the first person to die in Disneyland did except no one is exactly sure why here seat belt was not fastened since she was in the bobsled alone. She was thrown from the ride and died when she was pinned underneath the wheels of another bobsled.
9- The First Accidental Guest Death
Not all deaths at the park are the result of guests ignoring safety regulations. On Christmas Eve in 1998 33 year old Luan Phi Dawson from Duvall, Washington was killed and 2 others injured while they waited to board the sailing ship Columbia. A metal cleat that is used to secure the ship while it is docked in the Rivers of America came loose hitting Luan, his wife and a cast member in the head. Luan died 2 days later from his injuries.
10 -The Second Accidental Guest Death
Disneyland experienced its 2nd accidental death on September 5, 2003 when Marcelo Torres from Gardena, California bled to death from trauma to the chest while he was a passenger on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The locomotive that Marcelo was a passenger on separated from its train injuring several people and killing Marcelo. This was the first time a guest died from injuries sustained when a ride malfunctioned.