How Many People Have Died on the Zipper?

March 14, 2024

The Zipper has been an icon of the Canadian National Exhibition since it debuted in 1968. It's one of those rides where "innocence is left at the door and wild abandon is embraced." But, the ride hasn't been without its share of accidents. In the last 20 years, six people have died on the Zipper and at least ten others were injured. In some cases, riders were thrown out of their cars. Others were left dangling from the ride. The most infamous incident happened in 1977 when an 11-year-old girl in Toronto fell out of the ride, breaking her neck and becoming paralyzed.

The girl, Ava Janko, suffered a traumatic brain injury that caused her to lose consciousness and not feel her legs. Her mother Karen believes that if the Zipper had been designed with safety in mind, her daughter would be alive today.

Whether it's a zipper on a pair of pants, or a zipper at the top of a sweater, there is an immense amount of precision involved. That's probably why it took so long for someone to invent the thing. Gideon Sundback improved the fastener in 1917, increasing the number of teeth per inch to four or more (about 6.4 mm), and adding two facing rows of teeth that were pulled by the slider.

The Zipper is still in operation at the CNE, but its future remains unclear. The ride is operated by Chance Rides, which purchased the original manufacturer in 2008. And a Facebook post from the company suggests that the ride will be retired once the CNE has built a new attraction called the Twister, a giant whirling structure that's shaped like a tornado.


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