The most dangerous water slides you never knew existed

Dear water park enthusiasts: You've got it all backward. The most dangerous rides in the world aren't the upside-down roller coasters or those rickety, hastily-assembled carnival rides. Nope, they are your favorite rides, the ones that feature wild splash-downs and terrifying manmade waterfalls and so much water going up your nose all day that you could start your own water park. And that's not just a cynical take on it, either. According to NJ.com, you are more likely to get injured on a water slide than on any other kind of amusement park ride.

But wait, water is like a natural cushion, isn't it? Yes, to a point. But the faster you hit the water, the more force it exerts on your body and the less cushioning effect it's going to have. Also, water slides don't have safety bars, their speed is largely based on how much you weigh and what position you put yourself in, and you could drown. So really, compared to a roller coaster, there's not much to recommend them — except for the part where they're super fun and really great on a hot day.

Most water slides are safe. More or less. But some of them are responsible for a constant stream of bumps and bruises and others are responsible for more serious injuries and sometimes even deaths. Here are some of the worst offenders — many of which were so bad they were eventually permanently shut down.

Don't ride the VertiGo water slide

The VertiGo is a 108-foot tall water slide at Aqualandia in Benidorm, Spain. Riders get dropped through a trap door, down a steep slide, and into the water, which sounds like quite a rush as long as you make it through the trap door. Wait, what? According to Australian Broadcasting Corporation, British tourist Jamie Norman enjoyed the VertiGo so much he went down it three times, but the third time was not like the others because the trap door failed to open all the way, crushing his arm, legs, and face. "As I fell I felt it scrape all down my legs and arms and then smack into my face. When I got to the bottom the pool was full of blood," he said.

Okay, so that's horrific, but then Norman was treated by an on-site doctor and rushed out of the park with some free zoo tickets for his trouble. Also, the VertiGo was reopened about 10 minutes later, which neither seems like enough time to clean up blood or to fix a malfunctioning trap door.

Incidentally, this is the same water park (though not the same slide) where another British tourist broke his back in July 2019. Twenty-three-year-old David Briffault was riding the "Splash" slide when he hit the water and was knocked unconscious. Briffault broke two vertebrae in the accident.The park's response? "[Briffault] did not follow the guidelines for the slide." You must sign away all kinds of rights when you go in these places.

Probably don't ride the Steamer water slide

Canada. It's the United States, only way more sensible. Well, most of the time. Someone at the Calypso Water Park didn't get the sensibility memo, evidently, because the park is not only operating a water slide that has proven itself dangerous on a number of occasions, they're also pretending like it isn't dangerous so people will continue to ride it. The Steamer — which the Ottawa Sun describes as "something akin to a toilet bowl" — is one of the most notorious rides at the Calypso Water Park, though it isn't the only one there that has been linked to serious injuries. Steamer riders sit in tubes and then circle a giant funnel before washing into an exit slide. Sounds fun if your inner tube doesn't flip over before you get to the exit.

The park was accused of failing to report injuries on the Steamer to the regulatory body in charge of keeping Ottawa's amusement parks in line. Ultimately, the park was hit with 20 safety violations charges (nine were eventually withdrawn for lack of evidence), and 14 were directly related to three separate incidents that occurred on the Steamer in 2011.

Calypso accepted responsibility graciously, of course, and hahaha no they didn't. In fact they even tried to blame a safety inspector for one of their rides' problems. Don't worry, though, because the Steamer didn't close — if you enjoy a good spinal injury, there's plenty of room for you in line.

Definitely don't ride the AquaSphere water slide

There's nothing like a "Family Raft Ride" for family togetherness in hospital emergency rooms. Yes, at the Peninsula Aquatic Recreation Center (PARC) in Frankston, Australia, parents can bond while watching their children receive treatment for multiple water slide-related injuries.

PARC has a pair of notorious slides, but its AquaSphere has been linked to an unusually high number of accidents. On one occasion, two adults hit their heads inside the slide's tunnel and suffered head injuries. Park officials shut the slide down for 10 months, but just days after the reopening there was another accident — this time a woman experienced severe back pain after riding the AquaSphere. And on another occasion, a boy fell off the tube inside the ride and was battered around the inside of the ride before he was ejected. According to one witness, the boy lost consciousness for nearly 15 minutes.

Here's the worst part — when the PARC facility opened in September 2014, the AquaSphere didn't open along with it — that's because the employees who tested the slide suffered minor injuries. Evidently PARC thought they had fixed the slide's safety issues, but oops, guess not. The good news is the AquaSlide has since been dismantled and rebuilt.

How about letting yourself get flung off a 10-foot drop?

Action Park, if you haven't heard of it, was one of the most notorious water parks in the world. It was so notorious it was affectionately known as "Traction Park," or sometimes "Class Action Park." It was so notorious that History says it was shut down in 1996 after a total of six fatalities and so many injuries that no one seems able to actually count them.

Action Park didn't stay closed, though — it reopened in 2010, but instead of expressing remorse for the park's long and sordid history, the owners seemed to embrace it. For a while it was still called "Action Park" and the gift shop even carried T-shirts with the oh-so-adorable slogan, "I survived Action Park." Nothing like a little solemn respect for the families of all the people your rides killed.

Anyway, one of the more notorious Action Park rides is one that closed down relatively recently — it was called Cannonball Falls and it featured a 10-foot drop into a mountain pool. It was the most dangerous water slide in the state of New Jersey, with six injuries during the 2015 season alone. Still, that's tame compared to the overall number of Action Park injuries that season (27), which is tame compared to the number of injuries in 2012 (70). According to NJ.com, Cannonball Falls was permanently closed a few weeks before the end of the 2015 season, so that's something anyway. Sort of.

The Abrasion-Scoot water slide

Designers take care to design water slides without sharp edges, but there are always those danged seams that can hurt a little if you hit them at just the right angle. Now imagine a water slide that's nothing seams but wait, the seams are actually metal rollers, you know, like the rollers on warehouse conveyor belts.

Yes, at Action Park someone once had the bright idea to make a slide out of warehouse rollers because a fast stream of water just isn't abrasive enough. According to AMC, riders went down the Aqua Scoot on a plastic sled (safety first!) and the idea was that you'd pick up a lot of speed and then skip across the water at the bottom like a flat stone. The problem was if you weren't sitting on the sled at exactly the right angle, you could get flung off it and oh yeah, the pool was shallow — less than 2 feet deep, by some reports — so head meet concrete, lungs meet water. If you made it that far. Some unlucky riders fell off the sled on the way down, which would result in horrific pinching injuries followed of course by a head injury once you got to the pool. And Action Park employees didn't bother to wait until one rider exited the pool (or was carried off in a stretcher) before sending the next rider down (caution is for wimps), so collisions were also common on this ride. Sounds like fun, right?

The Black Hole of injury reports

The Wet 'n Wild Water Park in Orlando is no more, and that means its most notorious water slide has gone the way of things that go into Black Holes.

Many of the park's troubles revolved around a ride called the Black Hole, which the Orlando Business Journal described as "a twisting ride where guests shoot down a dark tube on a two person float." The Black Hole injured one man in 1994 so badly that he sought — and won — a $1.73 million judgment against the amusement park in 2000. The man said he was struck by something in the dark, and when he arrived at the bottom of the slide he couldn't move his legs. Doctors had to insert a titanium plate into his neck.

The park pleaded ignorance, which doesn't seem like an awesome defense. ("We never did safety inspections, your honor, so how would we know there was anything wrong with the ride?") During the trial there were employees who testified that rafts were constantly getting stuck and that attendants would send a new raft into the ride before the first one was confirmed to have exited.

That was probably the Black Hole's worst injury, but there were others, too — tubes sometimes flipped, people fell off, tubes were hit by other tubes — and all this happened mostly in the dark, which must have made it extra-super-sucky. So goodbye Wet 'n Wild and Black Hole, we won't really miss you that much.

The most horrific water slide accident of all time

It's awful when anyone gets injured or killed while out doing something that's supposed to be fun. But the absolutely horrific way that this child died makes it hard to even ponder, let alone put down in words. The Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City wanted bragging rights as the world's tallest water slide, so they built a 170-foot-tall monstrosity and named it "Verruckt," which means "crazy" in German. Then a 10-year-old boy named Caleb Schwab got on the ride and was decapitated after his raft caught air and his head struck a pole.

According to the Independent, state attorneys actually brought criminal charges against the park, but they were later thrown out by a judge who said the evidence against the park was "improper." The prosecuting attorney used video from a dramatized documentary called Xtreme Waterparks to argue his case, which most people will probably agree is a dumb thing to do in a trial unless you're a lawyer on The Simpsons or something.

Caleb's family did get a $20 million settlement from the park and some of the companies involved in its design, but it's pretty damn hard to put a price on the loss of a child, particularly in such a horrific way. Fortunately, Verruckt was permanently shut down and dismantled in 2018 after two years of looming over the park as a horrible monument to one of the worst tragedies in waterpark history.

The Cannon-cajones Loop

And now, ladies and gentlemen, the world's most infamous water slide. So infamous that riders had to be hosed down to improve their chances of actually making it to the end. So infamous that even Action Park's most daring adventurers didn't want anything to do with it. So infamous that it closed down after a single season.

This was Cannonball Loop, which frankly looked like an interdimensional hamster habitat. It was long and black and ended with a loop at the end that looked so improbable you had to wonder if it ran on a pact with the devil because it certainly didn't have anything to do with the laws of physics. According to Gizmodo, the Cannonball Loop was opened in the summer of 1985, but it only lasted for around a month before it was shut down by the New Jersey Carnival Amusement Ride Safety Board because all those other crazy Action Park rides were a-okay but this one evidently crossed a line.

So who were the few people insane enough to ride the thing? Mostly Action Park employees, who were given $100 in exchange for maybe never seeing their families again. In Action Park's defense, though, they did send dummies down the thing first. Never mind that some of them came out missing crucial body parts.

Well, they got the wild water slide ride they were promised, anyway

Cedar Point Waterpark in Sandusky, Ohio, modestly refers to itself as "the best amusement park in the world" (even better than Disneyland, evidently) and hopes you won't remember the accident of 2013 when you're deciding whether or not to agree with that designation.

In July 2013, guests were on board the river rafting simulation ride Shoot the Rapids when something went horribly, horribly wrong. The boat they were sitting in suddenly rolled backward 187 feet down the lift track, hit the edge of a concrete flume, hit another boat, and then flipped over. Riders were belted in and trapped upside down in the water, and it was probably only the quick action of park employees and bystanders that kept the incident from turning tragic.

According to the Sandusky Register, the accident happened because two of the ride's safety features failed — one that was designed to keep the boats from sliding backward and the other that was supposed to keep the boats on the track. Hmm, those kind of sound like they were maybe critical safety features? Anyway, the ride wasn't officially shut down until 2016, and most Cedar Point fans weren't especially sad to see it go. "Horrible design," wrote one fan on the Cedar Point forum PointBuzz.com, "stupid premise, and a dangerous and faulty product. Not to mention a HUGE waste of space. Good choice in just cutting the losses."

Hmm, that water slide wasn't as much fun as it looked like it was going to be

One of the most critical safety procedures on any water slide is the one that tells the ride operator when to send the next rider down. Because if the last person hasn't come out the bottom yet, you maybe don't want to send the next one down.

That was the malfunction at the Hawaiian Falls Waterpark in the summer of 2015, when Lauro Castrejon suddenly realized that he was stuck in the middle of a slide. That by itself wasn't especially terrifying until he realized that someone else was coming down the slide behind him and worse, that person was big and picking up speed.

When the second rider slammed into him, Castrejon lost consciousness and woke up again at the bottom of the slide. He was taken to a hospital by ambulance and treated for injuries to his shoulder, head, leg, and back. Castrejon sued the park for $100,000, which included $12,000 in hospital bills. He later told CBS Austin that he thinks the slide should have a light system that lets operators know when a rider has safely exited the pool. "And the fact that they don't have it there I believe is negligent," said his attorney. The current standing of his case is unclear.

Slip N spinal injury

And finally, here's a water slide you had no idea was dangerous even though you've almost certainly heard of it. In fact, you may have even bought one for your kids because let's face it, real water parks are too danged expensive and dangerous.

We're talking about the Slip 'N Slide, that icon of everyone's childhood. The answer to a hot summer day. Giver of bruises. Deliverer of brain-eating amoebae. And, evidently, paralyzer of adults and teenagers.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, adults and teenagers who dive onto a Slip 'N Slide, especially with gusto, "may hit and abruptly stop in such a way that could cause permanent spinal cord injury, resulting in quadriplegia or paraplegia." What? "The slider's forward momentum drives the body into the neck and compresses the spinal cord," says a report from 1993. Okay that was 1993, though, surely WHAM-O has improved the Slip 'N Slide's product design since then? Nope. It's still basically the same the same design, and in 2018 it landed on the "World Against Toys Causing Harm" ("WATCH," how clever) top 10 list of "summer safety traps." So all those years haven't made the thing any safer. Basically, if you weigh more than 125 pounds, you have no business being on a Slip 'N Slide.