Today in history: Deadly day at Kings Island with 3 deaths, 1 hospitalization

Riders enjoy a trip on the Beast in 1980. Enquirer/Fred Straub
Riders enjoy a trip on the Beast in 1980. Enquirer/Fred Straub(Cincinnati Enquirer)
Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 9:26 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (ENQUIRER) - The Cincinnati Enquirer’s headline read: “Deadliest day at Kings Island.”

The day was Sunday, June 9, 1991. Three people were killed and a fourth person was hospitalized in a bizarre sequence that involved two separate incidents a little more than an hour apart.

About 8:30 p.m., Timothy Binning, 22, of Mariemont, was crossing a wooden walkway near Bier Garten Lake when he reached over to splash some water and was jolted by a shock and fell in. His friend, William “Eddie” Haithcoat Jr., 21, of Oakley, and park security guard Darrell Robertson, 20, of Hamilton, both jumped into the water to save him, and both were fatally electrocuted. Only Binning survived, hospitalized with burns on his arm and neck.

The Cincinnati Enquirer front page from June 11, 1991: Deaths at Kings Island. Enquirer File
The Cincinnati Enquirer front page from June 11, 1991: Deaths at Kings Island. Enquirer File(Cincinnati Enquirer)

[Click here to view The Cincinnati Enquirer’s newspaper article from that day]

Investigations by electrical experts and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determined that the men had been shocked by a surge in an aerator pump that did not have a functioning ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). OSHA fined Kings Island $23,500 for seven safety violations.

That same night, about 9:45 p.m., Candy Taylor, 32, from Toledo, dropped out of a gondola on the Flight Commander ride and fell 60 feet to her death.

The ride, which opened in 1990, had 20 two-person pods that circled a central tower. Riders could use a joystick to make the capsules go up or down or roll 360 degrees. Taylor, who had a blood alcohol content of 0.30%, according to the coroner’s report, had slipped through the ride’s restraints into the empty seat, which did not have restraints in place. When the pod was upside down, she fell out. Officials blamed a design flaw.

Kings Island modified the restraints and seat dividers, and Flight Commander resumed operation a year later until the ride was closed in 1995 and dismantled.

Other deaths at Kings Island:

  • July 24, 1976: John “Jack” McCann, 20, a ranger at Kings Island’s Lion Country Safari, had gotten out of his vehicle and was mauled to death by lions.
  • May 13, 1983: John Harter, 17, of Delaware, Ohio, fell to his death while attempting to climb a section of the park’s Eiffel Tower replica and landed on top of the elevator.
  • Aug. 2, 1986: Mark Beckman, 26, of Youngstown, died after breaking his neck by diving from a 13-foot-high platform into the 2-foot-deep International Street fountain on July 26.
  • Aug. 5, 1989: Kings Island tuba player Thomas Cahall, 39, of Covington, died after he was struck by lightning while walking through the employee parking lot.

Source: Enquirer and Cincinnati Post archives.

This story was written by our media partners at The Cincinnati Enquirer.