Disney actually has a very strong safety record. If you consider all the millions of people that attend their parks and the thousands of workers that operate dangerous machinery, their protocols and safety guidelines are working.
When you have that many people come to your resort, there are bound to be those that sick or who have underlying known or unknown health conditions. And riding some of the rides or participating in activities in the theme parks may aggravate those conditions and cause the guest's death through no fault of Disney.
In examining the deaths at Disney, I discounted all those that were found to be caused by underlying health issues and instead focused on safety or negligence issues.
Surprisingly, there are not that many and a high percentage of those deaths are to workers and not to guests.
Here are the notable deaths at Disney due to malfunction, negligence, bad decisions, or stupidity.
1977 Walt Disney World Promotional Video
Drowning at Cinderella Castle: August 11, 1977
According the Daytona Beach Morning Journal in a December 23, 1982 article, a young four year old boy wandered away from his family while they were having ice cream at the parlor on Main Street.
After the mother could not find her son, she alerted cast members. He was not found until three hours later, in the moat surrounding Cinderella's castle.
The mother sued Disney claiming that the fences around the moat were not high enough to keep a child out and that the embankment was too steep and would allow a child to fall in and not be able to climb back out.
The case was thrown out though when the judge sided with Disney, noting that it was the mother's responsibility to watch her child and that further, no one actually saw the child fall into the moat.
But then an appellate court threw out the earlier decision and, though it reduced the amount of compensation, the mother eventually won her negligence suit against Disney.
To read more about this case: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1873&dat=19821223&id=adohAAAAIBAJ&sjid=qp8FAAAAIBAJ&pg=1400,3734517
Fort Wilderness Pool: May 23, 1987
A six year old boy, Miguel Diaz, drowned in a very crowded pool at the Fort Wilderness campground after his grandfather, who was supposed to be watching him, left briefly to purchase a snack.
The family sued Disney claiming that they had only one lifeguard at the very crowded pool who failed to act when the boy started drowning.
Before the case went to court, Disney settled with the family for $250,000.
To read more about this story: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1988-06-15/news/0040460167_1_boy-who-drowned-crowded-pool-walt-disney-world
Magic Kingdom Skyway
Magic Kingdom Skyway: February 14, 1999
One familiar site in the Magic Kingdom was the Skyway, sky bucket ride. While there had been some close calls with the ride, in 1999 tragedy struck.
A janitor who was cleaning the platform where the sky buckets rotate by was caught when workers on the other side of the Skyway turned on the ride, not realizing he was still cleaning.
The janitor grabbed onto a sky bucket and tried to get inside but he was unable to and fell to his death.
Disney was later fined by OSHA for unsafe working conditions and the ride closed permanently sometime shortly after that.
To read more about this incident: http://www.snopes.com/disney/parks/skyway.asp
Splash Mountain: November 5, 2000
In the Splash Mountain ride, a man attempted to climb out of his boat as it was moving. Other guests in the boat said the claimed to be trying to get to an emergency exit that was visible.
He was then struck and killed by another boat coming behind his.
After an investigation it was determined that it was not the fault of the ride but the rider's failure to follow the rules and protocol that led to his death.
To read more about this story: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2000-11-06/news/0011060332_1_splash-mountain-ride-reedy-creek
Pluto in Parade: February 11, 2004
One of the highlights of a trip to the Magic Kingdom is the parade. But even these are more dangerous than they appear.
In a backstage area where the afternoon parade was preparing to go into a view, worker, Javier Cruz, was struck by the float behind him and then subsequently run over by the float.
Cast members were naturally extremely upset by the death of their co-worker and friend.
The lack of visibility of both the Pluto costume and position of the float driver contributed to the accident.
To read more about this story: http://www.mouseplanet.com/wdwupdate/accident/
Primeval Whirl: November 27, 2007
In rides there are restricted areas that are not to be accessed without first making sure the ride is shut down. A worker went into the restricted area (either knowingly or unknowingly is not known) of the Primeval Whirl coaster in Disney's Animal Kingdom.
She was struck by a moving car which caused her to fall and hit her head. She died a few days later in the hospital.
Monorail Operator: July 5, 2009
As a worker was attempting to back up a monorail to switch it onto the track for the barn, he backed into another monorail containing guests and passengers.
A 21 year old monorail driver was trapped and killed when the two monorails collided.
Reports indicate he was pinned into the monorail and could not get out in time.
Several workers were suspended over the incident and Disney was fined by OSHA.
To read more: http://www.examiner.com/article/fatal-disney-world-monorail-crash-caused-by-employee-error-flawed-disney-policy
Primeval Whirl: March 13, 2011
In an accident that's like deja vu from the 2009 accident, another maintenance worker was struck and killed by a moving vehicle in the Primeval Whirl ride.
This man also hit his head and died as a result of his injuries.
The ride was closed for many months after this and faced several more OSHA fines and inspections.
To read more about this incident: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1366201/Second-death-Disney-Worlds-Primeval-Whirl-ride-worker-dies-struck-head.html
Pop Century Resort Pool: March 10, 2013
A thirteen year old boy was playing with his brother and cousins at a pool at the Disney Value Resort.
When the boy jumped in and did not resurface,the family began looking for him.
The boy's cousin pulled him from the pool. Although he was still alive, he died a couple of days later at the hospital.
No lifeguard was on duty at the time and Disney had signs posted that after hours swimmers are swimming at their own risk.
To read more about this story: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-03-12/news/os-disney-hotel-drowning-20130310_1_resort-pool-paramedics-cpr
Art of Animation Resort Pool: July 14, 2015
A three year old boy was discovered in the pool at the Art of Animation Resort. He was taken to the hospital but was unable to be revived.
Authorities say that he had become separated from his parents and that in searching for him, he was found in the pool.
To read more about this incident: http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/state/deputies-3-year-old-boy-found-in-the-art-of-animation-resort-pool-at-walt-disney-world-dies
Contemporary Resort: March 23, 2016
A person took their own life at Disney's Contemporary Resort Hotel. Some eyewitness reports say the person jumped to his death from inside the building's A-Frame lobby. He jumped onto the monorail tracks in a deliberate suicide.
Grand Floridian: June 14, 2016
At around 9:30 on Tuesday evening, a two year old boy, Lane Graves, was said to have been dragged into the lagoon by an alligator, near the upscale hotel. The child was presumed to have died. The father of the child suffered wounds trying to wrestle the child back from the alligator but could not retrieve him. The child's body was found the next afternoon. The gator had apparently drowned the victim but not consumed him.
To read more about this story: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/breaking-news/os-child-dragged-alligator-disney-20160614-story.html?njg
Following The Rules Makes Most Deaths Preventable
Although any accidental loss is tragic, most of these incidents were prevental if rules and protocol had been followed.
The park has a pretty good safety record.
When in attendance at the resort, follow the established rules, stay seated on rides and don't go in areas where you are not supposed to go.
Disney World has a good safety record and it is not only the happiest place on earth, it is also a relatively safe place to enjoy a vacation with your family.
Anonymous on November 21, 2019:
The kid that was dragged away by an alligator though, geez...
L C David (author) from Florida on March 12, 2014:
Well I'd say considering the millions of people that go through Disney World every year it's actually not too bad. It seems that if you follow the rules of the ride, you're not very likely to be injured. But it never hurts to be extra cautious!
Bernie Ment from Syracuse, NY on March 12, 2014:
Who knew Disney could be such a hideously dangerous place. Guess I'll stick to the parks where I know I'm much more likely to get killed either in the air or on the ground. Thanks for this hub! Voted up!
L C David (author) from Florida on February 24, 2014:
I think the important thing to remember is that following the rules pretty much eliminates any but the most freak accidents.
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 24, 2014:
Goodness. I haven't been to Disney in years, but one of my fears at all amusement parks is that a ride will derail while in motion. I think I'll just keep my feet planted firmly on the ground!