Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Roller Coaster Accidents at Riverview Park, Chicago

Riverview Park (1904-1967), was the most loved, best remembered, and still the favorite of all the amusement parks that were in the Chicago area. I present the park's history with over 230 photographs, some videos, ads, maps, and more. Also included is a complete list of all the roller coasters and the park's name changes throughout history.

Stands Up in Speeding Park Ride Car; Killed.
Chicago Tribune, June 23, 1919

R.N. Eldred, a restaurant owner in Flint, Michigan, was killed last night when he fell fifty feet from a speeding car on the "Blue Streak," roller coaster in Riverview Park. Park employees say Eldred stood up in the car as it headed down the steepest incline and lost his balance.
The Blue Streak Roller Coaster

Woman Killed by Fall From Park Roller Coaster.
Chicago Tribune, July 3, 1935

Miss Jane Ruby, 23 years old, 838 Wellington Avenue, was killed last night in a fall from a car on the  "Big Dipper" ride at Riverview Park. The North Damen Avenue Police were told that Miss Ruby got into the car with Misses Marie and Helen Slota, sisters, of 919 West Division Street. At the top of one of the steep inclines, she toppled out and fell about 30 feet to the ground. Park attendants took her to St. Elizabeth's Hospital, but she died on the way. The cause of the fall was not satisfactorily explained. A representative of the park said that Miss Ruby had disobeyed an order of a guard in getting into the seat with the other girls. The police said they would question the Slota sisters today.

Chicago Tribune, July 4, 1935
A hearing was held at St. Elizabeth's Hospital on July 4th and the death was deemed accidental. Testimony in the case of Miss Ruby indicated that she and two other girls occupied the same seat, although the attendant on the ride attempted to have her take another seat. 
The Big Dipper Roller Coaster

Boy Killed By Fall From Park Roller Coaster.
Chicago Tribune, August 27, 1935

Le Roy Kubychek, 20 years old, 4914 North Kilpatrick Avenue, was killed last night when he fell 30 feet from one of the cars on the "Big Dipper" thrill ride at Riverview Park.

A companion, Frank O'Grady, 21 years old, 4859 North Kilpatrick Avenue, told police that Kubychek had disregarded warnings and, at the top of an incline, stood up in the car and began waving his arms and shouting. He lost his balance as the car descended and fell. Early in July a young woman, Miss Jane Ruby, was killed in a similar fall from the same ride.

Open Coroner's Quiz On 3 Park Coaster Deaths.
Jurors sent to scene of ride plunge.
Chicago Tribune, August 28, 1935

The coroner's jury investigating the third coaster death this summer at Riverview Pake was sent yesterday by Coroner Frank G. Walsh to view the Big Dipper and the Sky Rocket, the rides on which the deaths occurred in the amusement park.

This action was taken at the inquest into the death of Le Roy Kubychek, 20 years old, 4914 North Kilpatrick Avenue, who was killed when he fell from a car of the Big Dipper Monday night. Deputy Coroner E.F. Ingles continued the inquest to September 4 and explained that Coroner Walsh had ordered the jury to inspect the rides so they better understand the testimony. The just was escorted about the grounds by A.A. Cleary, superintendent of the amusement park.

Return Two Accident Verdicts.
Verdicts of accidental death were returned in the cases of the other two victims. Miss Jane Ruby, 23 years old, 838 Wellington Avenue, was killed July 2 in a fall from the Big Dipper. Henry H. Bailey, 4216 Ogden Avenue, a plumber, plunged to his death from the Sky Rocket on August 12, 1935.

"Testimony in the case of Miss Ruby indicated that she and two other girls occupied the same seat, although the attendant on the ride attempted to have her take another seat," said Victor L. Schlaeger, first deputy coroner.

"In Mr. Bailey's case, his wife and a woman companion riding behind him testified he was thrown out at the first peak of the ride and that they were lifted from their seats."

Frank O'Grady, 19 years old, 4859 North Kilpatrick Avenue, Kubychek's companion on the fatal ride, will be the principal witness when the inquest is reconvened. He told police that neither he nor Kubychek was standing up in the car at the time of the accident.

Companion Tells of Death.
"The car jerked forward and as we came to the top of the third peak he just flew out, that's all," O'Grady said. "He was holding the bar with both hands and he was still holding to it after his body turned a complete somersault and was dangling in front of the car. That accounted for his broken arms. I grabbed his trousers and nearly wrenched my arm off, but couldn't hold him."

"Inspectors from the city elevator inspection department spent four to six weeks every spring going over our rides," said Superintendent Clearly. "We have had more deaths this summer than we have had in any four or five years previously. The Big Dipper has been running since 1919, the Greyhound since 1923, and the Sky Rocket since 1923. Patrons between the ages of 16 and 22 give the most trouble. The children are all right. They follow instructions.

Plan Survey of All Devices.
Corporation Counsel Barnet Hodes and Robert Knight, deputy building commissioner, announced a special survey will be made of all riding devices in amusement parks within the city (including Kolze's Electric Park and Riverview Park). Hodes said Riverview Park had been found to be Complying with the city ordinances governing roller coasters but that following the second death there this summer officials of the park had been ordered to raise the handrails on the ride cars from 3 feet to 4 feet. This was done, the city officials said.
Skyrocket Roller Coaster, Riverview Park

Coasters Crash at Riverview; 22 to Hospital.
Chicago Tribune, July 21, 1937

Twenty-two persons were injured, several of them seriously, when roller coaster cars collided with tremendous force in Riverview Park last night. All the injured were taken to the North Avenue Hospital for treatment. Later some were allowed to go to their homes.

The collision occurred just before the final dip of the caster, which is known as the Pippin and is located at the entrance to the park. Witnesses said one train of four cars was traveling up the last steep incline before the finish of the trip, with another train a dip behind.

Accounts of Crash Differ.
According to one version, the train lost momentum as it reached the crest for the last plunge. The train could not make the incline and slipped backward, rocking back and forth upon the track at the bottom of the incline. The passengers, trapped, screamed as the second train came into sight behind them. Some of the passengers jumped out, but others did not have time to leave their seats before the second train smashed into the last car of the first train. 

Another version of the accident was that the rear car of the first train broke loose, and a third version was that a broken wheel was responsible for the first train's failure to make the grade. The accident caused a panic in the park as mothers sought to learn if their children were in the wreck. The injured were taken to the park's first aid station, then to the hospital.

Officials of the park admitted there had been a collision, but gave no explanation beyond stating that the victims were hurt when they were thrown against the sides of the cars. Policemen stationed at the park denied at first that there had been an accident of any consequence.

Most of the Cars are Filled.
The cars have a capacity of six persons. Most of them were filled when the crash occurred.

Among the more seriously injured were Warren Richter, 21 years old, of 2146 Dayton Street; his wife, Frances, 20 years old; Sylvester Bailkowski, 23, of 2131 Canton Street; Miss Janette Hanley, 20 years old, of 7105 Stewart Avenue; Miss Alice Litke, 20 years old, of 2531 North Burling Avenue; Charles Lukes, 26 years old, of Downers Grove, and Miss Mae Kristoff, 23, of 5105 West 32nd Street, Cicero.

There have been several other accidents at Riverview Park in the last few years. Three people were killed in falls from roller coasters in 1935, and in July 1936, eight persons were injured when a cable snapped on the aerostat, a flying ride. 
The Aerostat, a Flying Ride, Riverview Park

Injured On Roller Coaster, She Sues Park for $10,000.
Chicago Tribune, October 9, 1937

A suit for $10,000 ($190,000 today) damages for injuries sustained when two roller coasters collided at Riverview Park on July 20 was filed in Circuit Court yesterday on behalf of Miss Alice Litke, 20 years old, of 2531 North Burling Avenue, against the Riverview Park Company.

The suit, filed by Attorney Marion J. Hannigan, alleges Miss Litke was severely bruised in the crash which injured 21 others, and that she has suffered insomnia as a result of her injuries.

The roller coaster, on which the accident occurred, was closed temporarily by City Building Commissioner Richard Schmidt after his investigators reported the accident was caused by the failure of a mechanical safety device, and also by the carelessness of the operators. In the last three years three persons have been killed and several hurt in four other roller coaster accidents at the park.

Victim of Roller Coaster Wins Damages of $3,500.
Chicago Tribune, October 22, 1938

For injuries she suffered in a roller coaster accident at Riverview Park, Miss Alice Litke, 21 years old, of Indianapolis, won a $3,500 ($68,000 today) verdict yesterday. The award was made by a jury before Judge Archie G. Kennedy of De Kalb, sitting in Circut Court. The accident occurred on July 20, 1937.
The Pippin Roller Coaster, Riverview Park

Roller Coaster Death Was Accident.
Chicago Tribune, August 29, 1961

A coroner's jury returned a verdict of the accident yesterday in the death of Arthur Heuser, 24, of 1954 Nimitz Drive, Des Plaines, who fell out of a roller coaster car and was run over by it at Riverview park last Friday.

His companion, John Nichols, 22, of 1948 Humboldt Blvd., testified that Heuser, because of a back injury was not sitting down, but was in a semi-standing position in the front car of the unit on the "Fire Ball" roller coaster ride. When the car reached the top of the second rise, Nichols said, Heuser fell forward onto the track and was run over.

Nichols said that the safety bar of the car in which they were riding was in a locked position.
The Fire Ball Roller Coaster, Riverview Park

Victim Falls as He Stands Up on 'Bobs.'
Chicago Tribune, May 26, 1962

A 36-year-old city worker was killed last night when he stood up and fell out of the "Bobs," a roller coaster ride at Riverview park, 3300 North Western Avenue, and then was run over by the following train. Police identified the victim as Vincent Perri, of 2218 Taylor Street, an employee of the city's water distribution department. The accident occurred at 11:20 pm just as a light rain began to fall. Witnesses told police that Perri was sitting alone in a seat in the 10th car of an 11 car train and stood up just as the roller coaster reached the top of a 25-foot high curve.

Waves to Wife.
They said he began waving, apparently to his wife, Patricia, 24, who was watching from the ground, just as the car began its downward curving plunge. Perri was flipped out of the car onto the tracks and run over by the following train which had just reached the crest and begun its plunge. His wife and other onlookers screamed as they witnessed the tragedy. Perri was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said he apparently had maneuvered out of a locking bar that restrains riders from standing up in the car.

Ride Is Inspected.
Warren Johnson, an inspector for the city, examined the train and the car in which Perri had been riding and said the ride was in perfect condition. A similar tragedy occurred at the park last August 25, when a 24-year-old Des Plaines man fell to his death when he stood up in the Fire Ball roller coaster, another of the park's seven roller coaster rides. Riverview, which is one of the world's largest amusement parks, opened its 59th season on May 11. More than 2 million persons a year visit the park. It has been cited as one of the safest amusement parks in the world by the National Safety Council.

Perri's body was taken to the chapel at 900 South Sacramento Boulevard.
The Bobs Roller Coaster, Riverview Park

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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