Horror deaths of 8 teens found burned alive in Six Flags Haunted House with injuries so bad ‘they were like mannequins’


THE Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey was just like any other theme park on a spring day in 1984.

Families and friends had gathered to have fun alongside thrillseekers trying out the latest rides.

A catastrophic fire in the Haunted Castle killed eight teens in 1984


A catastrophic fire in the Haunted Castle killed eight teens in 1984Credit: MYK STREJA / WIKIPEDIA

But for the loved ones of a group of teens from New York City the day out would become the stuff of nightmares.

A catastrophic fire – which saw flames “leaping 100 feet in the air” – killed eight teenagers and injured at least seven more.

Five of those killed — Jose Carrion Jr., Eric Rodriguez, Lenny Ruiz, Samuel Valentin Jr. and Christopher Harrison, had been students at Franklin K. Lane High School.

Nicola Caiazza, Suzette Elliott and Tina Genovese from Victory Christian School also died, according to The Queens Chronicle.

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The blaze left victim’s charred bodies so badly burned that initially they were believed to be mannequins when found by firefighters sifting through the wreckage.

Fire chiefs told news outlets at the time: “The fire spread so quickly because of the wind that apparently the victims had no time to escape.”

Hours after the blaze, then police commissioner Richard Borys told The Washington Post: “We don’t know if they were men or women – that’s how badly the bodies were burned.”

The tragedy – one the worst theme disasters ever – unfolded on May 11, 1984 when the blaze broke out inside the park’s walk through Haunted Castle at around 6:30pm.

Its entire structure went up in flames when a foam pad caught alight, burning for more than an hour.

One parkgoer said: “Thick black smoke was billowing up.”

Onlooker Peter Berkery told The New York Times: “I saw security guards running, and parents running and an incredible amount of smoke rising toward the sky.

“At first the smoke was coming out of the top, and then it began to pour out of the haunted house front door.”

His father, Peter Sr., added: “There was a lot of smoke and it did not smell like a wood fire. It was acrid, black and heavy and it stunk.’

”There were eight of us at the park.

“I just thank God we all made it home.”

All the fatalities were teenagers from the same group of nine who had entered the attraction together.

Eight of the tragic group got trapped and died of smoke inhalation.

The one survivor later said they had thought the smoke was part of the amusement.

Fire official Frank McDonnell told app.com in 2014: “I assisted with the removal of bodies and will never forget the smell of burning tires and plastic.”

An criminal investigation cleared the park of wrongdoing in the blaze, according to local reports.

But it did lead to new fire safety procedures, including sprinkler systems. The US Sun has contacted Six Flags for comment.

Court testimony heard how the group had been confused by a fake door which was not an exit but instead a closet.

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They were said to have been found harboring near an air conditioning vent.

As author Peter Smith, who penned a book about the disaster, wrote: “Everyone who was at Great Adventure that day and anyone who lives around here will never forget that day, as long as they shall live.”

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