The Bloody Story Of America's Deadliest Water Park


Written by Jack Blocker
15 Wednesday 15th July 2015

"I vividly remember the sensation of my feet going up as I realized "Here comes the loop!" I remember being ecstatic when I had cleared the pinnacle of the loop, however the worst was yet to come. Apparently my sub 100 lbs. body was not heavy enough for the ride and rather the sticking to the slide on the back end of the loop, I actually fell to the bottom of the loop. I smacked the back of my head on the slide and was nearly knocked unconscious. It was then I saw light as I sputtered out of the exit of the tube."

And so begins the story of Action Park, otherwise known as America's deadliest water park. The entire concept of a water park was relatively new when the attraction opened in the 80s, so most of the 70+ rides were patched together with little concern for health and safety, or human life. For example, the Alpine Slide was a 200 yard long, haggard stretch of concrete with a trickle of water streaming down:

Riders sat in a sled that they could control with a handbrake. Except the brake rarely worked, meaning riders were often thrown off their sled to await a nice back-scraping collision with the ash-phalt path to the left. That was if they were lucky. The Alpine was responsible for the park's first death. According to WeirdNJ, "The victim…was thrown from the car down an embankment. He sustained a fatal head injury when his head struck a rock.”

That was the beginning of a string of tragedies. The official death toll is six, but there are also numerous tales about kids sneaking into the park at night, only to be found the next day in a tangled heap of dead limbs. Another man lost his life after stepping on an exposed wire which was submerged underwater. Here are some fun headlines from the glory days:

Given the park's proximity to largely working class neighbourhoods with historically limited access to pools, many others simply drowned because they'd hit the wave machine without knowing how to swim.

I've read a few anecdotes about the park on various websites, and all of them make it sound like some lost extract from Lord of the Flies. One attraction was just a giant rope swing, the kind any kid would hook up over a shallow stream at the height of summer. The only difference was Action Park's swing was used by hundreds of people over the course of a summer. People broke fingers. Others shattered femurs by crashing into the rocks on the back swing. In 1984, one swinger hit the cold water with such force that they suffered a heart attack.

The park shut down in 1996. A pretty impressive run considering since people died since it opened in 1978.

Perhaps more impressively, the park is still open today and it operates under the same name. However the original rides have been overhauled, probably because the new owners want a little less blood on their hands. And probably less literal blood on the park's premises.

As an aside, Alice in Chains visited the waterpark for a 1993 episode of MTV's Headbangers Ball, which is honestly the best thing I've ever seen:

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