Denver Amusement Park Tragedies

Always pay attention to the safety rules when you jump on Lakeside’s Cyclone roller coaster. Some of them are no-brainers, but remember that each rule is posted for a reason.

Case in point, “Do Not Stand up when the roller coaster is in motion.” It seems like an easy one to remember, but there was a time when this was commonplace

On June 18, 1954, a 19-year-old airman unbuckled his safety belt, stood up and flew out of the Cyclone.

The victim was Airman third-class Danny C. Coleman, 19 from Houston. He was stationed at Lowry Air Force Base and worked part-time as a brakeman for the Cyclone roller coaster at Lakeside.

Coleman was thrown out of the car and shattered two supporting posts for the roller coaster’s scaffolding. Jefferson County coroner said that Coleman died instantly and sustained a broken back, smashed skull and internal injuries.

Park officials asked that the ambulance not run its siren so it would not alarm other Lakeside guests. Coleman was thrown from the car as it sped down to the lowest point of the ride where the tracks were four feet from the ground.

Several of his friends had front-row seats of the horrific scene. Minutes before the accident, he told friend that he liked to stand up in the cars of the roller coaster because he got “more kick out of it that way.”

Park officials said that this was the first fatality reported for a rider on the Cyclone, but they must’ve forgotten about the time an 18-year girl was killed in an accident at Lakeside in 1944.

When Coasters collide

Bonnie Marie Hicks was killed and seven others injured when the Cyclone swept out of control around the final curve approaching the loading platform where another car was waiting to start the roller coaster circuit.

The 18-year-old woman died almost instantly of a skull fracture when she fell out of the roller coaster car and landed in a flower bed below the tracks.

Originally from Greeley, Hicks had only been in denver for a year and half and worked as a telegram sorter at Western Union Telegraph Co.

Lakeside officials said that a coupling joint in the brake system that slows the cars’ approach to the platform snapped allowing the car to approach the stopping point at full speed.

The two attendants attempted to slow down the malfunctioning roller coaster by using a hand brake and slowed down the car slightly, which may have prevent more injuries.

Miniature Train Derailment

Elitch Gardens wasn’t immune to death and tragedy when in 1965 a graduation party ends in tragedy when a 15 year-old girl was killed after a miniature train at the park flipped on its side.

The Denver coroner ruled the girl’s death due to a ruptured heart from fright. Gloria Kosciw also had a fractured skull and facial cuts.

The Rocky Mountain News reported that no cause was immediately known for the accident. Eight other people suffered injuries from the accident as well.

The miniature train followed a circular path through the flowered area near the park’s main entrance on 38th and Tennyson.

The 19-year old engineer said the when they were nearing a turn he heard a bang and screens. The train was going 18-miles per hour. Kosciw’s body was found nine feet away from the accident.

Next on Revisit Denver: Tragedy continues to strike Denver’s amusement parks including an accident on Lakeside’s Motor Speedway, a fire in Elitch Gardens Tunnel of Love and a hold up gone wrong for a cashier.

Fire guts Lakeside Swimming Pool

In 1973, parts of Lakeside itself became a victim to a fire that nearly destroyed the entire amusement park.

The Fire cut a trail through the old amusement the summer after a Jefferson County Grand Jury deemed the amusement park a public safety hazard.

Five fire departments battled a blaze that destroyed the park’s old swimming pool and two maintenance shops along 46th and Sheridan. There were no injuries but it took 100 firefighters to halt the blaze and prevent the entire park from going up in smoke.

The safety concerns stemmed from a 12-month investigation that found all of the buildings at Lakeside could be called dangerous due to numerous electrical and fire code violations.

In spite of the low water pressure and initial chaos of having so many different fire departments on scene, the fire was localized to the swimming pool and and workshops.

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