Monday, July 22, 2013

The actual dark side of Lagoon ...

 By Lynn Arave

Fatalities/Accidents at Lagoon:

 There is one taboo subject at all amusement parks – fatalities and accidents.

Accidents do happen -- nothing in life is totally safe.
However, rest assured that statistically, you are far more likely to be injured, or killed in a car accident on the way to/or from Lagoon Amusement Park, Farmington, Utah, than on any of the park’s attractions.
Let’s do some statistics – Lagoon has likely averaged about 1 million visitors a season during the past 3 or so decades. With just 2 ride fatalities from 1960 to 2017 (by using a half-million annual  visitors as average before 1980 and one million a season thereafter), the odds of being killed on a Lagoon ride would pan out at about 2 chances in 47 million of dying on a ride.
Furthermore, with only 16 known fatalities in the park’s long history, dating back to 1886, from any kind of accident (plus at least four illness-related deaths), that isn’t a bad safety record at all. The park would prefer to have had no deaths, but then reading below, one can clearly conclude that most of the deaths at Lagoon were caused by a patron’s own negligence or recklessness.
In others, riders "tested" their safety restraints, or even tried to exit the ride on their own.
  Three of the fatalities on rides -- the most of all -- are from the wooden Roller Coaster. Add the worker's death accident on the tracks and that's 4 fatalities from the coaster, making it the park's most dangerous.
Swimming/diving produced Lagoon's most fatalities in its early years. In fact, the Ogden Standard-Examiner on July 29, 1912 stated in an editorial that due to all the drownings at Lagoon, its lake should only be 3 feet deep. It also stressed that more warnings for riders of Lagoon's Scenic Railway ride should be posted, given the ride's turbulent nature.

-Still, a FOX News story in July of 2017 ranked Lagoon 

as the one of the nation's 11 most dangerous 

amusement parks, based on its fatal ride accident 



(Note too that state fair rides and traveling amusement rides are likely far more dangerous than the rides at amusements parks.)

                                       Lagoon's most dangerous ride?

This accident list below does NOT claim to be a complete history of all accidents at Lagoon. Still, it is likely the most comprehensive list available anywhere.

1.   Henry John Barnes, 50, of Farmington, drowned in about 3 feet of water at Lagoon's Lake on August 3, 1907. He had been drinking and was believed to be intoxicated. His body was not found until the next morning.

2. Herbert Lee Reeder, 19, of Ogden drowned in Lagoon Lake on June 5, 1909. A passenger in a shell-like boat with a friend, Fred Naisbitt, the boat capsized when the two were changing oars. Reeder, who could not swim, sank to the bottom and Naisbitt nearly lost his  own life trying to save him. Others came from shore and also tried to help. The June 6, 1909 Ogden Standard-Examiner article on the accident noted that Lagoon management has made no effort to patrol the lake, to keep it safer.

3.  “Emma Youngquist drowned at Lagoon.”
The young woman was boating on Lagoon Lake with a boyfriend on July 28, 1912, when she decided to change places and row the boat. The young man disagreed with that action, but she stood up anyway, the boat rocked and both fell out. The young woman drowned, her body being found 25 minutes later, 16 feet from shore and in eight feet of water. (-From the Davis County Clipper, 2 Aug. 1912).

4. "Railroad man is killed at Lagoon."  Albert Fulton, 27, a Denver & Rio Grande Railroad employee, died at Lagoon on July 15, 1914 when he struck his head on the bottom of the pool and fractured his skull. Fulton leaped from the Lagoon high dive and hit the water perpendicularly, as he was believed to have slipped off the platform. The depth of the pool water was clearly posted at 6-feet. (Ogden Standard-Examiner, July 16, 1914.)

5 “Earl E.  Logston killed after races.”
Logston of Salt Lake City was killed on the Lagoon racetrack on Sept. 5, 1921 in a vehicle accident. He and a companion were trying to see how fast they could drive around the track, following the day’s official races there. Somehow a light in the car came loose, stuck in the steering gear and caused the car to crash into a fence. A splintered rail struck Logston and instantly killed him. (-From the Davis County Clipper, 9 Sept. 1921.)

6.   “Ogden man killed on Dipper at Lagoon.”
George Burt, 19, of Ogden was killed instantly on Saturday, July 26, 1924 when he fell 25 feet from the Dipper roller coaster (today’s wooden roller coaster).
Burt was making his fourth ride of the night and was insistent on standing up during the ride. He eventually lost his balance, slipped out – hung onto the car -- and was dragged 30 feet down one incline and partially up another, before he lost his grip and suffered the fatal fall.
He had a broken neck. (-From the Davis County Clipper, 1 Aug. 1924.)
Note that this coaster at the time likely did not have seat belts.
7-8. “Park City miner meets death at Lagoon July 4”
Tobias Ortiz, a Park City miner and formerly from Santa Fe, New Mexico, died in the Lagoon swimming pool on the afternoon of July 4, 1925.
He leaped from the pool’s high dive and struck his head on the bottom. He was under the water 10 minutes before he was located, pulled out and resuscitation was used unsuccessfully. His neck was not broken, so it is believed that he was stunned under water and drowned.
“This is the second accident of the kind that has occurred there since the diving place has been in use.”  Thus a similar such death from diving happened earlier. (-From the Davis County Clipper, 10 July, 1925.

9. “Park City woman accidentally killed at Lagoon.”
Mrs. Luka La Fay Goodfellow, of Park City, died instantly from an accident in the Lagoon Fun house on July 13, 1930.
She was accidentally thrown from the “fun wheel” in the fun house and struck her head against a post. Note that this was the original Lagoon fun house – the one that burned down in the 1950s --  not the later version. (-From the Davis County Clipper, 18 July 1930).

10. Ernest Howe, 21, Ogden, stood up on the roller coaster ride and fell out as made its first turn, dying on impact, with a fractured skull, on Aug. 20, 1934. (-From the Ogden Standard-Examiner, summer of 1989, no exact date of publication available, but author has a copy of the undated article.)

11. James Young Hess, 23, of Farmington, died from injuries sustained from being stuck by a roller coaster car at Lagoon on Sept. 1, 1946. Hess was hit by the car while working on the ride’s scaffolding. He suffered skull, leg and arm fractures and died later at a Salt Lake hospital. (-From the Deseret News, 13 June 1989).

12. George Marler, 20, a Union Pacific Railroad agent, died at Lagoon on August 16, 1948. Marler was fatally injured when he attempted to dive head first in the shallow part of the park's swimming pool. He fractured his neck and injured his back, later passing away in a Salt Lake hospital. 

13. Ryan Beckstead, 6, of Bountiful, was killed on the “Puff the Little Fire Dragon” ride at Lagoon on April 30, 1989. This mini children’s roller coaster did not malfunction. The ride operator hastily decided to give the riders a second ride and failed to notice that Beckstead – in the rear car -- was already almost out of his seat, believing the ride to be over. Beckstead was tossed out of the ride and stuck in between the tracks. No one – including his father – could reach him before the coaster came back around a second time and struck him on the tracks. (-Deseret News, 1 May 1989). Note that thereafter, Lagoon enhanced the restraints on this ride to hopefully prevent any future such accidents.

14. Kilee King, 13, of Bountiful, died July 9, 1989, after she fell 35 feet from the lead car of the roller coaster ride. She suffered a broken neck and had been trying to “get air” by pushing her legs against the seat of the car as it went over a hill. The result was she was thrown out of the ride’s car. Her lap bar had remained closed, but failed to keep her inside the car. (-From the Deseret News, 13 June 1989). Note that soon after, Lagoon moved all the coaster seats permanently slightly forward, to lessen the chances of this type  accident from happening in the future.

15-19. There have been at least five other non-attraction related deaths that happened at Lagoon since 1980. Park officials say one person died in the park from a seizure and another from a heart attack. A Lagoon employee was also killed in 1981 after she fell off a garbage truck in the parking lot. Still another person drowned in the old Lagoon swimming pool after illegally entering the park grounds after hours. A 72-year-old Roy man died from a heart attack at Lagoon on May 17, 2003. A lawsuit later claimed the man did not receive prompt enough emergency care. (-From the Deseret News, 11 June 1989 and also 1 Aug. 2004).

Obviously, others likely died of illnesses, etc. at Lagoon over the years, especially before 1980.


-Early April of 1906: Charles Boylin of Farmington, who looked after the grounds and animals at Lagoon, was seriously bitten by a monkey. He suffered a paralysis to both arms initially, but after several weeks recovered full use of his limbs. (From Box Elder News, April 19, 1906.)
-April 22, 1907: Two painters suffered serious injuries when their scaffold fell to the ground after the ropes broke. They had been painting the roof of the Lagoon dance hall, which had been replaced after high winds blew it off last fall. (From the Deseret News April 23, 1907.)
-May 30,1908: Undoubtedly Lagoon's most disastrous opening season day: two injuries, one very serious -- 1. Logan Balderston of Bountiful was seriously injured on Lagoon's scenic railway, when he was thrown out of the car on a turn and fell 40 feet to the ground. He broke his leg, displaced ribs and moved his heart a few inches. Doctors thought he would not survive at first, but he did gradually improve; 2. Leonel Layton of Layton, broke his arm on the park's skating rink. (-From the Davis County Clipper, June 5, 1908.)

-April 28, 1908: Lorin H. Heninger of Ogden, was seriously injured at Lagoon while riding "bumping the bumps," some kind of ride. No other information available. The ride may have been similar to today's "Dodge 'em" car rides. (-From Davis County Clipper, Aug. 28, 1908.)

-Circa mid-1960s: According to a March 2016 Facebook post by Laurie Capener of Layton -- She was a teen waiting in line for a ride nearby the original Wild Mouse (Then located at the north end of the midway). She said she saw the Wild Mouse malfunction -- "Watched one car not make it up the last hill, while another one rammed the stalled car from behind. Several kids were injured. I would never get on it again."
Apparently no one was seriously injured, but this accident is the source of overblown urban legends that the Wild Mouse jumped off the tracks and some riders were killed.

-June 27, 1968: Six riders were treated for injuries and released after an arm of the Octopus ride fell to the ground. One of the main pivet pins on the ride sheared off, causing the crash. No one was serious hurt. This ride was taken out of Lagoon for good, soon after.
       -1983: A Lagoon employee, Shauna B. Lassen, lost an arm after it was severed by the Fire Dragon ride she was working on.
      -1984: Two children were injured when the kid's Helicopter ride plunged to the ground. A lawsuit followed. 
      -1987: A Pittsburgh, Penn. Woman said she was injured on the Jet Star II ride, when it came to an abrupt halt. Also, in 1987, a Ketchum, Id. man said he was hurt when a Jet Star II car struck his car from behind.
     -June 10, 1991: A cross board on the Lagoon roller coaster (2X6 feet) came loose and broke the arm of an Elko. Nev. teenager, Frank Greco, 18, who was riding at the time and it struck him from overhead as the coaster car went by.
   - June 15, 1991: Three teenage boys were stabbed during a fight at Lagoon. This was not gang related.
    -August 1996:  A 16-year-old Centerville girl, working at Lagoon, was bit in the arm by a cougar at the Lagoon Zoo. The animal was euthanized later, to check if it had rabies, or other diseases.
   - July 3, 2000: A Layton man injured a finger and his arm in “The Drop” water slide at Lagoon-Beach.
    -Sept. 2000: A South Jordan man injured his knee after crashing into the end of the pool of “The Drop” ride in Lagoon-A-Beach’s water slide area. (This was at least the third injury that resulted in a lawsuit against Lagoon on the “Drop” slide.)
-August 2001: A freak accident on the Scamper, a children’s bumper car ride, frightened but did not hurt a male rider, age 6. A pole at the top of one of the ride's cars shorted out, produced an arc of electricity and caused a heavy piece of metal about 1 1/2 inches long to heat up and fall onto the seat next to the boy. 
-2012: An elderly man shattered his leg in a fall getting off the Dracula's Castle ride. He apparently could not exit the ride quickly enough, before the next ride car came around the corner and bumped him to the ground.


 Here are a few examples of malfunctions that occasionally happen on Lagoon rides, usually only causing delays and inconvenience …
  - July 24, 1999: The Skyscraper ride malfunctioned and its brakes temporarily stopped working. The ride continued about an extra 25 minutes before it was finally stopped. Some passengers loved the extra long ride with a view; others felt trapped. No injuries.
  -July 1, 2002: The Roll-o-Plane ride malfunctioned and left eight passengers stuck and stranded on the ride for 30 minutes. No one was injured.

-Oct. 14, 2002: The Samurai rode broke and left 28 riders trapped in the cold and in an upright position for one hour and 45 minutes.


Here are a few examples of some past lawsuits, likely a fraction of what actually happened, since most modern lawsuits are likely settled privately:

-Summer of 1908: Lizzie W. Priestly sued Lagoon after stepped in a hole near a grandstand for a baseball game at Lagoon and suffered lasting injuries.
-March 1926: Franklin H. Mitchell tried to sue Lagoon for $10,000 (almost $134,000 in 2014 dollars) when he fractured his skull when a water toboggan struck him in the Lagoon Swimming pool. The jury decided the Mitchell was negligent by being in that area of the pool and the case was dismissed.
-November 1926: Bessie Wintercloud tried to sue Lagoon after a board on the dancing floor caused her to trip, causing leg injuries. This case was quickly settled outside of court.

-- Lagoon's Foreign Spy/Bomb plot incident:
Lagoon has also had some very weird happenings over the decades.
How about a foreign spy and a bomb plot?
“Dancing master proves to be spy; Man who taught dancing at The Lagoon tried to blow up pavilion on Soldiers’ Day,” was the headline in the Sept, 7, 1917 Davis County Clipper.
“The professor who had been teaching dancing at Lagoon has turned out to be a German spy,” that article stated.
The bomb didn't off, but if it did, dozens could have been killed, or injured.
It was reported that the professor disappeared, but was later captured and imprisoned in the prisoner’s camp at Fort Douglas.
The newspaper stated that rumors were also circulating that the spy had already been convicted and executed.
The article also reported that another German, who had been living with a family in Centerville, had also been arrested as a spy and sent to Fort Douglas.

-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at:


  1. This an interesting compilation... I've been looking for a report of a ride malfunction for the Paratrooper back in 2003. I was almost 13 at the time, and I was there for the Music In The Parks festival with my choir (and a bunch of others). I KNOW it was a Saturday, and I know it was in May, but I can't remember which Saturday it was. I know it wasn't the last Saturday of the month. But anyway. I was on the Paratrooper with my two best friends, and I watched some liquid explode out of the metal pole that's attached to the cars and spill out onto two girls three cars ahead of us. They had to stop the ride, take them off, and then they let the rest of us off and ended up closing the ride down. The girls were rushed away, and they were screaming, but I'm not exactly sure what it was that spilled onto them. All I know is that it was brownish and gross looking. I'd like to find the incident report of this since I remember it so well, but perhaps my googling abilities aren't as great as I thought they were.

  2. Not everything always gets reported. Some accidents, like the one you are searching for, may have never generated a report with the media. Hence, sadly. your memory -- short of finding one of the 2 girls or their family -- may be also there is to go on ....

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  4. Great piece! I was born and raised in the SL valley and had not heard half of that!

  5. I met someone whose hand was bitten by the tiger in 2016 and had to have multiple surgeries to repair the damage.

  6. This is so interesting! I remember when I was younger, don't know if it got reported to the media, but a little boy went on 'Wild Mouse' with either his uncle or dad. But they were heavier set, so the lap bar didn't go down on the kid very well, and he fell off the ride, they shut down the park that day. I remember because I was upset that I had to go home. They were in the process of building wicked at the time

  7. This is so interesting! I remember when I was younger, don't know if it got reported to the media, but a little boy went on 'Wild Mouse' with either his uncle or dad. But they were heavier set, so the lap bar didn't go down on the kid very well, and he fell off the ride, they shut down the park that day. I remember because I was upset that I had to go home. They were in the process of building wicked at the time

  8. Hello Great Article! I remember that a guy I went to Jr High School with in Centerville lost his leg on the colossus ride in 1984. He worked there and the ride just opened. His name was Bart Paige I believe. Had you heard about that one?