This Day In History: Roller coaster crash at Forest (Schuetzen) Park

On Sunday, June 17th, 1923, a near record crowd of 3,640 people attended the annual basket picnic of the Davenport lodge No. 28, Loyal Order of Moose at Forest Park.

Attendees enjoyed a program of games and outdoor sports, including a baseball game between married men and single men, horseshoe pitching, a guessing contest, and athletic contests, with prizes for the winners donated by Davenport businesses. The Moose 36-piece band put on a concert that afternoon. 

At 8:15 pm, a horrifying scene unfolded on the figure eight roller coaster, advertised as “the largest and safest west of Chicago”. The first car made it over the first dip and was almost to the top of the second incline, 45 feet above the ground, when it started slowing down, came to a stop, then slid backwards to the bottom of the dip and partly up the opposite slope. The car slid forward again and up the incline for a short distance and backwards once more, finally coming to a stop in the bottom of the dip. The second car, which had been released a few seconds before, crashed down into the first car, injuring 10 people.

The Daily Times, Monday, June 18, 1923, p.1

The victims and their injuries: 

Mary Taylor, age 16, suffered severe injuries to her head.

Amy Taylor, age 18, was knocked unconscious in the crash, had a bruise on her forehead and a lacerated leg.

Woods Taylor, age 29, had a broken nose and bruises on his arm and leg.

Charles Forgie, age 18, had bruises and cuts on his leg and several teeth knocked out. 

Loretta Thompson, age 16, bruised her jaw.

Robert Montague suffered from shock and was slightly bruised.

Duncan Estes, age 13, was bruised and had a cut on his knee.

Frances Whitaker suffered from shock and bruises.

An unidentified boy, age 10, sprained his ankle after jumping off the second car and falling 15 feet to the ground.

Daniel O’Connor, a heavyset man,  had scratches and slight bruises after jumping from the second car, landing on a trestle which gave way under his weight, then falling 10 feet onto another projection. 

The coaster was inspected the next afternoon by building commissioner Ed McCoy, who found a bent axle on the first car, which would account for it failing to make the grade. Safety clutches were ordered to be installed as well as an automatic device that would indicate to the starter when the first car had passed the second big dip before releasing the second car.

Davenport Democrat and Leader, Monday, June 18, 1923, p. 1

This was not the first roller coaster accident at Forest Park. On Sunday, July 31st, 1921 at 8:35 pm, 7 people were injured when the first car failed to make a slight grade on the final rise onto the platform and slid backwards, swaying back and forth on the dip until a second car crashed into the rear of the first. That wasn’t enough to stop the amusements for the evening because two hours later another person was injured in a second accident exactly like the first. A broken brake shoe on one of the cars was to blame for these two incidents. 

The victims and their injuries: 

Fred Sirike, hands bruised.

Andrew Sirike, hands and chest bruised.

Eva Isenhart, sent to Mercy Hospital with serious body bruises.

Laura Kile, sent to Mercy Hospital with serious body bruises.

Fred Fick, injuries to the head and body

Richard Peters, minor bruises

Frances Buttgren, minor bruises.

Bertha Kreneheller, foot injured

The figure eight roller coaster at Forest Park, formerly and currently known as Schuetzen Park, opened on Sunday, June 20th, 1920, during the festivities for the 68th Anniversary of the Davenport Turners. The amusement park was  managed by Tobe Watkins, who still had eight years left on his ten year lease from the Davenport Shooting Association. 

The coaster itself was built and operated by the Davenport Coaster company, which was incorporated on May 4th, 1920 by three men from Rockford, Illinois: Charles O. Breinig, president; H. S. Burpee, vice president; and Paul Stick, secretary and treasurer. The company spent $15,000 on amusement devices at Forest Park.

The amusement park closed after Labor Day in 1923. The grounds had been sold to the Chiropractic Psychopathic Sanitarium Co. on May 1st of that year, and the inn, bar room, bowling alley, and music pavilion had already been converted into living quarters for patients and attendants. Manager Tobe Watkins had been allowed to continue his lease for the summer to give Davenporters one more season at the old amusement park.

The Roller coaster was torn down by the City in October 1926 as it was deemed a menace to public safety. 

The Davenport Democrat And Leader, Monday, August 16, 1920, p. 32

Read more about Schuetzen Park


(posted by Cristina)


Works Cited

3,640 Attended Moose Picnic Here Sunday. (1923, June 18). The Davenport Democrat and Leader, p. 12

7 Injured As Coaster Cars Crash. (1921, August 1). The Daily Times, p. 1.

Anniversary Of Turners To Be Held Sunday. (1920, June 18). The Davenport Democrat And Leader, p. 16.

Broken Brake Show Caused Coaster Crash. (1921, August 4). The Daily Times, p. 18.

Chiro Sanitarium Sues For Cost Of Wrecking Coaster. (1926, October 8). The Daily Times, p. 6.

Eight Hurt, One Badly in Double Accident at Forest ark Figure 8. (1921, August 1). The Davenport Democrat and Leader, p. 11.

Forest Park, 45 Years Amusement Center, to Go Out of Existence. (1923, August 24). The Davenport Democrat and Leader, p. 13.

Forest Park, for Years Davenport’s Playground, OPen Sunday Last Time. (1923, August 24). The Daily Times, p. 2.

Look for the Giant Coaster. (1920, August 16). The Davenport Democrat and Leader, p. 32.

Roller Coaster To Be Equipped With ‘Controls’. (1923, June 19). The Daily Times, p. 6.

Seven Injured in Coaster Accident. (1923, June 18). The Daily Times, pp. 1-2.

Ten Injured in Coaster Crash. (1923, June 18). The Davenport Democrat and Leader, pp. 1-2.

Will Operate Amusements At Forest Park. (1920, May 4). The Davenport Democrat and Leader, p. 12.


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