Discover America’s Most Dangerous Amusement Park!
In 1978, Eugene Mulvihill’s vision of an amusement park where guests controlled their experiences led to the opening of Action Park in Vernon Township, New Jersey. With its groundbreaking water-based attractions and unique rides, Action Park became a notorious destination, attracting thousands of thrill-seekers. However, the park’s approach to thrills, underpinned by lax safety measures and poorly designed rides, made it one of America’s deadliest amusement parks.
The Infamous Attractions
- The Tidal Wave Pool: Known as “The Grave Pool,” this attraction was one of the first wave pools in the U.S. Using fresh water instead of salt water, it posed a significant risk to swimmers, leading to numerous rescues and three drownings between 1982 and 1987.
- The Alpine Slide: This ride embodied the park’s philosophy of self-controlled fun but resulted in numerous injuries and fatalities. The slide, made of concrete, often had malfunctioning sleds, leading to 14 fractures and 26 head injuries from 1984 to 1985 alone. The first fatality at the park occurred on this slide in 1980.
- The Kayak Experience: A fatal electrocution incident in 1982 involving an exposed wire in the water led to the permanent closure of this attraction.
- The Tarzan Swing: This ride, involving a rope swing over a pool of icy spring water, resulted in various accidents, including a fatal heart attack in 1984.
- The Cannonball Loop: Designed without engineering expertise, this looping waterslide caused numerous injuries. Despite initial tests with dummies resulting in decapitation, the ride was opened to the public but was shut down about a month later by state safety regulators.
- Motorworld’s Go-Karts: Operators modified go-karts to reach speeds of up to 50 mph, far exceeding safety limits. These karts, lacking proper restraints, posed a significant danger to riders.
Systemic Issues and Mismanagement
Action Park’s troubles were compounded by systemic issues and mismanagement. The park often operated with no liability insurance and faced multiple lawsuits and financial challenges. State regulators showed little effort in addressing repeated safety violations, and the management was involved in illegal financial activities.
By the 1990s, rising insurance premiums and costly settlements led to the closure of several rides, and the park’s attendance suffered.
Staffing and Alcohol Policies
The park frequently employed underaged and untrained workers to supervise rides and administer first aid. Additionally, the availability of alcohol, even to minors, and the lax enforcement of consumption rules contributed to the hazardous environment. Intoxicated guests and staff were common, exacerbating the park’s safety problems.
Conclusion: The Legacy of a Hazardous Adventure
After years of financial struggles and a tarnished reputation, Action Park closed its doors in 1996. Its history of dangerous rides and mismanagement left a legacy of both nostalgia and cautionary tales.
Action Park serves as a stark reminder of the critical need for stringent safety measures and responsible management in amusement parks. Today, the site has been transformed and operates under new management and safety protocols, a far cry from its tumultuous past.