How This Tame Illinois Coaster Hurt 31 People Over 46 Years Ago
I've ridden many a roller coaster in my day and this one in Illinois is rather tame by comparison. However, it has a history that tells a different story. Over 46 years ago, it injured 31 people in two different incidents just weeks apart.
Have you ever ridden The Whizzer at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois? It's a legacy coaster that's been going strong for nearly 5 decades. I saw the Wikipedia page for Six Flags Great America mention incidents that took place during the summer of 1976.
What exactly happened?
The Whizzer Wikipedia page says that the original design had a problem with the breaks which led to collisions in the loading stations including "two station collisions on the version in Gurnee - both of which occurred less than a month apart on July 24 and August 18, 1976. A total of 31 riders were injured in the Gurnee collisions."
As it turns out, The Whizzer in Gurnee, Illinois was fortunate. 4 years later in 1980, a 14-year-old boy was killed when coasters collided and he was caught underneath. Terrible.
Those accidents led to the addition of seat belts and a complete redesign of The Whizzer to what many know it to be today which is a safe and somewhat tame coaster compared to others.
There's a reason why The Whizzer has been so popular over the years. You might remember a campaign back in 2002 where Six Flags considered replacing it, but the public outcry was so substantial, The Whizzer was saved. It might have been different if those accidents in 1976 hadn't led to a redesign with an emphasis on safety. Those 31 injured may have saved the lives of others years later.