36 Years Ago: The 1984 Haunted Castle Fire at Six Flags Great Adventure
On May 11th, 1984, a fire at the Haunted Castle at Six Flags Great Adventure took eight lives. The eight dead were all within 25 feet of a fire exit.
According to the New York Times, the cause of death for all eight was asphyxiation.
The fire is believed to have been started by a young man using a lighter to see in a darkened passageway, although that was never determined conclusively.
Since the attraction was built on 17 semi trailers, it was considered a “temporary” structure that was not subject to the same building codes as permanent structures.
The corporate owners of the park were indicted on aggravated manslaughter charges and a trial was held in Toms River. At trial, the park was accused of ignoring safety warnings about “the absence of sprinklers, smoke alarms, fire-retardant material and sufficient exits."
After an eight week trial, the jury acquitted the company. In an interview, the foreman of the jury said that the blame was more on the township for not requiring more safety measures, adding, "The township should have been doing more. Somebody there wasn't doing his job. They were never told that they had to put in sprinklers or the place would be closed down."
The families of the eight dead teenagers settled a lawsuit against Bally Manufacturing (the owner of Six Flags Great Adventure at the time) for $2.5 million each.