Fact Check

Was Fabio Hit in the Face by a Goose While on a Roller Coaster?

The Italian-American model was invited to the Busch Gardens Apollo Chariot ride in 1999.

Published Jun 18, 2023

 (Screenshot via Twitter)
Image Via Screenshot via Twitter
Fabio, the model, was hit in the face by a goose while riding a roller coaster in 1999, leaving his nose bloodied.

Media reports and park officials in 1999 characterized the incident as a goose colliding with Fabio’s face, but according to Fabio, the goose collided with a camera on the roller coaster ride, which shattered and a piece of it cut his face. Fabio claims that video footage of the collision was lost.

While many know supermodel Fabio from his gracing the covers of romance novels, quite a lot more know him from "Goosegate," or the time he rode a roller coaster in 1999 and was seemingly hit in the face by a goose, leaving his nose bloodied.

Photographs of an injured Fabio Lanzoni on a roller coaster have been popular viral fodder, replete with claims of what purportedly occurred:

The incident with the bloodied nose did occur, but Fabio has disputed the way numerous tweets and news reports have characterized it. 

In 1999, Fabio was invited to the Busch Gardens amusement park in Williamsburg, Virginia, to inaugurate a new roller coaster ride called Apollo's Chariot. 

In news coverage at the time, Fabio could be seen speaking to fans dressed in a red cape and eventually getting onto the ride. When the roller coaster came to a stop at the end of the ride, Fabio's face was covered in blood:

In a 1999 local news interview at the end of the clip, Fabio was visibly upset about the incident, "It wasn't a freak accident, and it's going to happen again, and I cannot live in my conscience to know that the ride is still running. And even a person, even a child, can be killed." 

News reports characterized the incident as an encounter between Fabio and a goose. The Los Angeles Times wrote in 1999, "Fabio Survives Goose Encounter, but Take a Gander at His Honker." 

The article cited other press coverage that claimed Fabio got a faceful of the goose:

According to various press accounts, the hunky supermodel was coming down the first drop when a 10-pound bird flew into his face. The goose was killed. But Fabio walked away with a cut across the bridge of his nose that took a mere three stitches.

One of his publicists boasted: "This is a testament of the man's strength. Only a strong man could have survived an onslaught like this."

They even asked scientists if such an incident was possible. Roger McWilliams, a physics professor at UC Irvine attributed Fabio's survival to "momentum transfer."

"Since the goose is mushy, it could squash and diffuse the impact . . . like a crush zone in a car," he said to the Los Angeles Times. "However, if it had been a brick, Fabio would be the crush zone."

A physics grad student at Caltech added that Fabio was lucky: "The Air Force has had geese run into jets, and all they find are a dead pilot and feathers against the back of the cockpit."

A 1999 column in the Richmond-Times Dispatch noted how even the Virginia Beach Audubon Society president was shocked Fabio survived the encounter: "At that speed you'd think a goose would've taken his head off. We have Canada and snow geese around here. And they're 8 to 10 pounds each. The ones who are old enough to fly have wingspans of at least four feet."

According to the Charlotte-Observer, park officials confirmed that a goose had indeed hit Fabio on the nose, and the carcass of the animal was found the next day. 

At that time, Fabio did not get into the details of what happened, releasing a statement in which he said, "I trust they will now install safety measures to make sure that this will not happen again. [...] I am glad the results were much less significant."

But Fabio's retelling of it decades later painted a rather different picture. In an interview with an Australian television program in 2018, he said: 

They built the fastest roller coaster in the world, but when they built it, they built it on a flying path of geese. So the geese, they have to fly into the roller coaster to get into the pond, and fly out of the roller coaster and get out of the pond.

This is the twist: one of the goose hit the camera, the video camera, and a piece of video camera barely slashed the bridge of my nose. Now I have to do 10 minutes upside down with my head down [...] but I wasn't hurt, I was pissed because they wanted to cover their butt. So, they go 'Ok, if the goose hit him, it's an act of God.' So this spread to the media that the goose hit me. 

[...] The goose hit the video camera, the video camera split.

The goose incident is discussed at the 3:30 mark:

In a separate interview with People magazine in 2021, he described the incident in more  detail:

So the rollercoaster goes down at 80 miles an hour, 80, 85 miles an hour, over a pond and back up, and then upside down. So when it came down and went over the pond at like 80, 85 miles an hour. So what happened is, over the pond there was a bunch of geese there. I'm talking about hundreds. And one got sucked in. I saw this very up close. The geese hit the video camera. What happened, the goose hit the video camera. The video camera shattered. At 85 miles per hour. [...]

I was with reflex fast enough to turn my head. And I saw totally the metal passing by and cut the bridge of my nose. Then got I turned, and it really was a miracle. But because then it was all the rest of the ride, after I was cut upside down, of course the blood rushes to your head. So when I came off, my face was bloody. [...]

They thought, 'Oh my God, it was like a broken nose and this and that.' They thought, because all the blood. My nose wasn't broken. You know how big was the cut? One stitch.

He also remembered how lawyers approached him in the aftermath:

Now, let me tell you, during that time, every single law firm in America, three or four of the big law firms, they come up to me and say, 'Fabio, that's going to be the first easy four or $5 million in your life.' I said, 'No.'" Fabio says he took full responsibility. "No, no. I said, 'No, it's principle. I did my job. I'm not going to sue them. I took the job. I signed that contract.'"

He added that he tried and failed to get video footage of the moment of impact with the video camera. "And I tell you, you know the camera," Fabio said to People. "My manager at that time, he said, 'Oh, let's see the video footage.' Well the camera is never to be found. The tape disappeared. It never was found."

Apollo's Chariot appears to be still running at Busch Gardens with only one other reported claim of an injury that allegedly occurred on the ride. There have been no known goose-related injuries since they took a gander at Fabio.

Given that Fabio disputed the popular version of events decades later, and there is no footage documenting what actually happened, we rate this claim a "Mixture." 


"Apollo's Chariot." Busch Gardens, https://buschgardens.com/williamsburg/roller-coasters/apollos-chariot/. Accessed 13 June 2023.

"Exclusive Interview w/ The King Of Romance, Fabio Lanzoni." Studio 10. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNMQyZ58Z9Y. Accessed 13 June 2023.

"The Charlotte Observer." Newspapers.Com, 3 Apr. 1999, https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-charlotte-observer-fabio-2/126340418/. Accessed 13 June 2023.

"Fabio Explains What Happened When a Goose Struck Him on a Rollercoaster: 'It Was a Miracle.'" Peoplemag, https://people.com/movies/fabio-explains-what-happened-when-a-when-a-goose-struck-him-on-a-rollercoaster/. Accessed 13 June 2023.

"Richmond Times-Dispatch 02 Apr 1999, Page 2." Newspapers.Com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/833197870/. Accessed 13 June 2023.

Rivenburg, Roy. "Fabio Survives Goose Encounter, but Take a Gander at His Honker." Los Angeles Times, 9 Apr. 1999, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1999-apr-09-cl-25542-story.html. Accessed 13 June 2023.

"Virginia Beach Man Sues over Claim He Was Injured on Apollo's Chariot at Busch Gardens." The Virginian-Pilot, 4 July 2019, https://www.pilotonline.com/news/article_e2c67502-9e96-11e9-88c1-0fcdc9232bcc.html/. Accessed 13 June 2023.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.

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