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Action Park – Most Dangerous Water Park of All Time

HBO’s documentary Class Action Park highlights what was the most dangerous water park in America.

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I recently watched Class Action Park, which is a retrospective look back at one of the most infamous waterparks of all time. The film was a time capsule that brought me back to my days growing up in Brooklyn, NY.

No summer was ever complete without a trip to Vernon, New Jersey for a day at Action Park. Years later, I realize that each visit was always a crap shoot to see who would come out unscathed. Would someone end up with a bloodied nose after getting on one of the rides? Who would get scraped up on the Alpine Slide, a notorious no-brakes wheeled ride down a concrete-and-fiberglass track that invited calamity at every turn?

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What Made Action Park So Dangerous

I could count the number of times I almost drowned in their massive freshwater pool that featured waves so high, lifeguards were required to save more than two dozen people each day.

Over the years, Action Park, had developed many nicknames. Locals referred to it as “Traction Park. It was without a single doubt the most dangerous water park that ever existed.

Action Park was one of the first modern water parks in the United States, opening in Vernon, New Jersey in 1978. Gene Mulvihill, the company’s founder and CEO, believed that amusement park guests should have control over their experience. He imagined the type of theme park where customers could control the rides, including how fast and high they went. Nothing unsafe about that at all, right?

Without a doubt, the craziest non-water ride in the entire park was the Alpine Slide. This was basically a huge track devised to rip people’s flesh off that was disguised as a kid’s ride. I have vivid recollections of riding down this incredibly long, cement-and-fiberglass-filled track in a wheeled cart to my impending doom.

Alpine Slide - Action Park - Vernon, NJ

Theoretically each rider was in charge of their own speed but the ride would constantly malfunction. Some carts didn’t have brakes, so you couldn’t slow down as you sped down this precarious concrete slope. Others carts had brakes which were locked, causing riders behind to inevitably slam into the ones in front of them. That ride, would ultimately become responsible for the park’s first fatality. According to New Jersey statistics, the Alpine Slide was responsible for at least 26 catastrophic head injuries and 14 fractures.

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Some of the rides were more original than others. One “ride” consisted of a pair of diving cliffs, while another called Tarzan’s Swing involved swinging off a platform with a rope into the middle of a lake. The water however was so cold that lifeguards frequently had to save people from drowning. One park visitor had a heart attack after experiencing the swing.

Another one of the ill-devised attractions was the Tidal Wave Pool. This quickly became one of the park’s most infamous attractions. It was one of the first ones of its kind to open in the United States and rapidly developed a reputation for being the park’s scariest “ride”. It was dubbed “The Grave Pool” because it was filled with fresh water rather than sea water, which made patrons far less buoyant and put swimmers on expert mode trying to survive waves that reached 40 inches at full blast. On busy weekends, the dozen or so lifeguards on duty rescued an average of 30 people a day.

Tidal Pool in Action Park - Vernon, NJ

For me though, the one ride at the park that was most likely to take you out was Cannonball Falls. This ride was an enclosed water slide that ended with a 10 foot drop into the middle of a huge pool. I can remember once landing flat on my back and hearing every visitor watching say “Ohhhhhhh” at the same exact time when I hit the water.

The state of New Jersey would ultimately wind up shutting down that ride for good in 2014 after a spate of injuries drew the attention of park regulators. But that in itself was not nearly the scariest ride in the park. That title would have to go to it’s cousin Cannonball Loop, which I never rode on but is steeped in urban myth because this insane water slide was only open a month before it too was shut down.

The Cannonball Loop, was an enclosed water slide with a complete vertical loop. According to one urban legend I heard, they used a dummy for a test run of the ride and it came back without a head.

Gene Mulvihill offered park staff $100 to try out new rides, including the Cannonball Loop, and despite employees getting bloody noses and bruises, he went ahead and opened the attraction anyway. One person actually got stuck at the top of the loop, prompting the park to construct a hatch to facilitate future rescues.

The Advisory Board on Carnival Amusement Ride Safety shut it down just a month after it opened, after numerous injuries were reported. Mulvihill’s son confesses that they “never completely perfected that one”.

At the end of the day what made Action Park so successful was it’s “anything goes” mentality that made the water park so popular. I remember people drinking freely and kids running around the park without any adult supervision. In reality, many of the numerous injuries reported came from visitors who were inebriated.

Shut Down & Rebirth

In 1996, Action Park was shut down. But by that time, the park had been responsible for six deaths, including three drownings in the Tidal Wave Pool and the electrocution of a 27-year-old man on the Kayak Experience when his kayak fell over and he came into contact with water that had a loose wire contacting it.

Mulvihill headed a committee to reclaim the park in 2010. Mountain Creek Waterpark, which reopened in 2014 under it’s new name, now advertising a trained lifeguard team and stringent, up-to-date safety measures.

Class Action Park

Recently HBO made a documentary called Class Action Park which brought back a lot of memories. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip down memory lane but haven’t been back to the park since it reopened. Nothing will ever be able to match the crazy thrills we got on a hot summer day at Action Park. Those memories will endure for everyone that grew up during that generation.

4.6/5 - (74 votes)

Editor in Chief of Pool Magazine - Joe Trusty is also CEO of PoolMarketing.com, the leading digital agency for the pool industry. An internet entrepreneur, software developer, author, and marketing professional with a long history in the pool industry. Joe oversees the writing and creative staff at Pool Magazine. To contact Joe Trusty email info@poolmagazine.com or call (916) 467-9118 during normal business hours. For submissions, please send your message to submissions@poolmagazine.com

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Sinkhole in Swimming Pool Kills Man, Swallows Guests

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Sinkhole in Swimming Pool Kills Man, Swallows Guests

A man was found dead after being swallowed by a sinkhole that opened up in a private swimming pool. The incident transpired in Israel where authorities are still trying to figure out what caused two men to be swept away by the receding water after a sinkhole sprang up within an inground swimming pool at a private property in central Israel. One was recovered dead at the scene on Thursday afternoon.

The body was located by search crews in the town of Karmei Yosef after a four-hour recovery operation conducted by rescue personnel who were lowered deep underground. The search was hampered by concerns that tunnels extending from the sinkhole could lead to a second collapse.

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It took rescuers several hours of searching before they were able to uncover the body of the man who had gone missing. The other 34-year-old man who had been trapped for some time, was saved and treated for minor injuries to his lower body.

Rescuers worked for hours to find the missing victims body. - Photo Credits: Fire and Rescue Services
Rescuers worked for hours to find the missing victims body. – Photo Credits: Fire and Rescue Services

Employees of a private company were having a pool party when the incident occurred. About 50 people were present at the time of the accident, according to one guest.

鈥淭he water level suddenly started receding and a hole opened up, creating a vortex that swept two people inside,” the guest told news sources.

She said a sinkhole opened a vortex formed which swallowed up the victim in a matter of seconds. She yelled at her coworkers to get out of the pool as the sinkhole emerged, but they initially assumed it was a game. Authorities say, fortunately, there were only 6 people in the pool at the time or injuries and casualties could have been far greater.

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鈥淪econds later, the ground just dropped鈥 I watched two people just disappear,鈥 she added.

According to police, an investigtion into the incident is currently underway, and they plan to find out if the pool was operating with the proper license.

4/5 - (8 votes)

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Coach Saves Swimmer Who Fainted At World Championships

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Coach Andrea Fuentes Saves Swimmer Anita Alvarez Who Fainted While Competing at World Championships in Budapest

‘Hero coach saves swimmer’ was the headline splashed all over the news today. After losing consciousness during the FINA World Aquatic Championships in Budapest, Hungary, American swimmer Anita Alvarez was rescued from drowning at the bottom of the pool by coach Andrea Fuentes.

On Wednesday, Fuentes dived into the water after seeing the 25-year-old artistic swimmer plummet to the bottom of the women’s solo free event.

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Coach Indicated Life Guards Slow To React

Andrea Fuentes, coach to two-time Olympian Anita Alvarez, told Spanish newspaper Marca that she dived in to haul the 25-year-old to the surface because no one else lifted a finger to do so.

鈥淚 jumped into the water because I saw that no one, no lifeguard, was diving in,鈥 she said.

The dramatic rescue unfolded when Ms Alvarez was participating in the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest on Wednesday night.

This wasn’t the first time that Fuentes has come to Alvarez’s rescue. During an Olympic qualification event last year, a similar incident occurred where Fuentes leaped into action to her and swim partner, Lindi Schroeder to safety.

Who is Andrea Fuentes?

Fuentes is a four-time Olympic medalist in synchronized swimming and the most decorated swimmer on the Spanish National Team. The world champion rescued Alvarez from the bottom of the pool and swam her to the surface before swimming her to safety at the edge of the pool.

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鈥淚 got a little scared because she wasn鈥檛 breathing, but now she鈥檚 fine,” Fuentes told news sources.

Swimmers often hold their breath for long periods of time as a way to develop their lung capacity but never defy medical advice, according to their instructor, who explained that the occurrence was not out of the ordinary in the sport of swimming.

Fuentes became concerned when she observed Alvarez’s feet appeared paler than usual toward the end of her routine on Wednesday. While Alvarez was descending instead of ascending to take a breath, she dove in.

Coach saves swimmer after fainting in pool
Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

Swim Coach Saves Swimmer, Quick To Respond To Distress

Fuentes remarked, “I was already paying attention, and then I saw her sliding down. In the end, “I didn’t even ask myself if I should go or not, I just thought that I was not going to wait.”
“I know Anita very well and I know the sport very well.” Fuentes replied when asked if she thought lifeguards were too slow to respond to the incident.

Coach Saves Swimmer – Says ‘I Did My Job’

Fuentes concluded by saying, “They did their job, I did mine,” The sport’s governing body, the International Swimming Federation (FINA), did not react to calls for comment on reaction speed of the rescue.

After what it called a “medical emergency.” FINA said in a statement on Thursday that it has been in contact with Alvarez, her teammates, and her medical personnel. In the words of the release, “Ms. Alvarez was immediately treated by a medical team in the venue and is in good health,”

Oli Scarff, the underwater photographer who used a remote robotic camera to capture the breathtaking images of the rescue, told reporters that he heard noise as he was looking at his computer toward the end of Alvarez’s routine. He observed the swimmer at the bottom of the pool on the screen of the robotic camera.

Hero swim coach Andrea Fuentes saves unconsious swimmer Anita Alvarez after she fainted in swim competition in Budapest
Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

According to the photographer, it was “It was kind of a shocking thing to see because as soon as I looked back down at the robotic camera I had this kind of clear view of the scene while everyone in the arena was watching it through the surface of the water,” as he put it.

At first Scarff was capturing “beautiful” images of a “amazing” athlete in action, only to find himself “in a heartbeat” photographing “a near-death situation.” “Actually, I was rather rattled up by the whole thing.

Swimmer Says She’s Ready To Compete on Friday

“The doctors checked all vitals and everything is normal: heart rate, oxygen, sugar levels, blood pressure, etc. All is fine,” Fuentes stated. Other high-endurance sports, such as running and cycling, also experience this.” Whether it’s a marathon, a bike race, or a cross-country race, we’ve all seen photographs of racers who didn’t make it to the finish line being helped by others. Swimming is just like any other activity in that we push ourselves to our limits and sometimes find them.”

5/5 - (1 vote)

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Canal-Style Pool in China Goes Viral

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Baodun Lake Hushan Hot Spring Resort - A Series of Villas with a Connected Canal Style Pool have gone viral on social media.

As an avid observer of interesting pools and spas, we’re keen to point out interesting projects that are going viral. One huge canal-style pool that is actually a shared pool experience connecting a series of villas at a resort in China, has captured the imagination of viewers on social media and is being shared all over the internet.

Travel the globe and you’re bound to see some incredible sights. This is especially true when traveling to China. A visit to Yingde, a historical city in the Guangdong Province of China will bring you to a picturesque locale better well known for its world-famous black tea than its resorts. Located approximately 10 miles from Yingde Railway Station sits an incredible sight to behold and one of the more interesting footnotes on any traveler’s log.

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Yingde China - Guandong Province of China

Baodun Lake also known as “the water city of Venice in Guangdong”, is where you’ll find the Baodun Lake Hushan Hot Spring Resort. One of the more remarkable features is the gigantic canal-style pool which encircles the entire property of this charming family resort.

Baodun Lake Hushan Hot Spring Resort - Canal Style Pool
Photo Credit: Trip.com

The swimming lane which stretches from the backyard of each building in the resort is 4.2 meters wide (13.7 feet), 1.2 meters deep (3.9 feet) and 1.3 kilometers long (0.8 miles).

Aerial drone footage of Baodun Lake Hushan Hot Spring Resort.
Photo Credit: YouTube

There has been plenty of footage taken of both the resort and the pool, however one of the more popular videos that we’ve seen lately is the aerial drone footage that is being shared on YouTube.

While resorts with these types of pools are becoming incredibly popular in places like Southeast Asia, they still have yet to really catch on in the west. Perhaps because of the fact that our ideal of the over-water bungalow experience is more in line with places like Fiji.

Have you visited any resorts like this? What was the experience like? How much do you think a pool like this costs to maintain? Tell us in the comments below.

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