Arlington Police Release Incident Report in Six Flags Death

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Arlington police released an incident report that provides new perspective to what happened in the moments before and after a woman fell to her death at Six Flags Over Texas last summer. (Published Friday, Nov 8, 2013)

    Six Flags Over Texas employees told police there had been issues with the roller coaster car from which a woman fell to her death in July, according to a newly released police report.

    Rosy Esparza, 52, died when she fell off the Texas Giant roller coaster July 19. Arlington police on Friday released an incident report that includes interviews with dozens of employees and witnesses, including members of Esparza's family.

    According to the report, an employee told police that when they checked Esparza's restraint, they noticed it is was "a little high or not as tight as it should be," but a safety system indicated the restraint was locked.

    The employee, whose name was redacted from the report, explained that a control panel for the ride has indicators that light up when a restraint is not secure. If there is a problem with the restraint, the control panel lights up, and the train for the ride is not be allowed to begin.

    Six Flags said in a statement Friday that train's operating system does not allow the ride operator to release the train unless every lap bar is in a locked position.

    The employee who told police about the control panel lights also said that the train was riding on the "red train," which gave them problems earlier in the week. The sensors had not been working properly, and park maintenance came out to fix them, according to the report.

    Another employee remembered "thinking the restraint wasn't all the way down on her thigh," but said it was far enough down and the sensors registered it as locked, according to the report.

    That employee reported there had "been issues with the red train's panel in the past" and the person had "seen the trouble light before on car three" in the week prior to the incident.

    Several witnesses reported not hearing the restraint click, but employees with knowledge of how the ride works told police that the restraints are operated with hydraulics, not mechanical locks. The hydraulic system does not create a "click" sound when lowered, they said.

    After the incident, two people contacted Arlington police to describe potential problems with the ride in the days before.

    In an email, a woman said she had been on the ride in the same train as Esparza the day before. After all the restraints had been checked and an audible "all clear" given from ride operators, an employee stopped and announced a recheck for car three, she said. Another employee came over, checked the restraint, and the ride was cleared to begin.

    Another woman called police and said she had been to the park a week earlier with her daughter. When her daughter rode the Texas Giant, they got into car No. 3 on an unknown color train. The woman told police her daughter's restraint was lowered, but then reopened before the ride left.

    The woman provided cellphone video in which police said they could not see the bar reopen, but could hear a "distinct 'pop' sound." The woman's daughter called out to ride operators, who announced, "Car three is unlocked."

    Officers were able to obtain Six Flags video surveillance for the ride, but reported it didn't provide much meaningful information. The video did not show if the restraint had been properly lowered.

    Police concluded that there were no signs of any criminal misconduct that led to Esparza's death and ruled the incident an accident.

    Six Flags representatives maintain the ride is safe and there were no mechanical problems relating to the ride before the incident.

    "We continue to extend our deepest condolences to the Esparza family," the amusement park said in a statement Friday. "This was a tragic accident that deeply affected our employees, especially since safety is our highest priority and at the heart of everything we do."

    Six Flags said external and internal experts determined that the Texas Giant was safe and that the accident was not caused by any mechanical failure.

    "We added incremental and overlapping safety measures to the ride, including redesigned lap-bar restraint pads and seat belts," the park said. "We also added a test seat at the ride-line entrance so guests can determine if they properly fit in the restraint system."

    Records show the roller coaster had been properly checked and maintained.

    Frank Branson, the Esparza family's attorney, is questioning the police investigation.

    "All of a sudden, there's no mechanical record showing it, according to police report," he said.

    He said Esparza's family is still struggling with her death.

    "They're working through it the best they can," he said. "[She was a] wonderful woman who kept family together, and she's gone."

    NBC 5's Ray Villeda contributed to this report.