Deadly Texas Giant Fall Raises Safety Questions

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Tarrant County Medical Examiner identifies the victim who died after a fall from the Texas Giant. (Published Monday, Jul 22, 2013)

    Safety questions about roller coaster restraints and amusement park regulations are surfacing after a woman fell to her death from the Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas.

    The Tarrant County Medical Examiner identified the victim Monday as Rosa Ayala-Goana of Dallas.

    Family members previously identified the victim as Rosy Esparza to NBC 5.

    The medical examiner listed her cause of death as "multiple traumatic injuries due to fall from roller coaster."

    Neighbors Describe Coaster Fall Victim

    [DFW] Neighbors Describe Coaster Fall Victim
    Family members identify Rosy Esparza of Dallas as the woman who fell from a roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington. (Published Monday, Jul 22, 2013)

    Park spokeswoman Sharon Parker confirmed in a statement Saturday that the victim died while riding the 14-story Texas Giant, but wouldn't give specifics about what happened. Arlington Police Sgt. Christopher Cook told The Associated Press on Saturday that police believe the woman fell from the ride and that there appeared to have been no foul play.

    James Reid-Anderson, Six Flags' chairman, president and CEO, said in a conference call Monday morning that the company continues to investigate the death. Six Flags hasn't said how the woman died, and Reid-Anderson said the company won't be releasing further information until its investigation in complete.

    Police, fire and emergency medical services responded to the park around 6:45 p.m. Friday after calls about a woman who fell from a car while riding a roller coaster. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

    Because no foul play is suspected, police are not involved in the investigation, officials said.

    Woman Dies Riding Roller Coaster at Six Flags

    [DFW] Woman Dies Riding Roller Coaster at Six Flags
    Six Flags confirmed that a woman died while riding the Texas Giant roller coaster. (Published Friday, Jul 19, 2013)

    NBC affiliate WOAI in San Antonio reported that Six Flags Fiesta Texas will temporarily close their Iron Rattler roller coaster following the accident on the Texas Giant. The Iron Rattler has a steel and wooden track similar to the renovated Texas Giant.

    German Ride Company to Investigate Safety Bars

    Tobias Lindnar, a project manager for Gerstlauer Amusement Rides in Munsterhausen, Germany, told The Dallas Morning News that the company will investigate what led to Friday's fatal accident.

    Witnesses said the woman expressed concern about the Texas Giant roller coaster's safety bar not completely engaging as the ride was starting. The coaster is touted as the tallest steel-hybrid roller coaster in the world.

    "I'm sure there's no safety bar that is broken," Lindnar told the newspaper by phone Saturday night from Germany.

    Lindnar said Gerstlauer has never had problems with car safety bars on any of the roughly 50 roller coasters it's built around the world over the past 30 years.

    "We will be on site and we will see what has happened," he said.

    Lindnar wouldn't address the hydraulic bar's operation or whether park employees should be able to determine if a person's body is too close to the front of the train car to prevent the bar from being effective.

    "At this time I don't want to speak about the technicals," he said. "It's not so easy. It's some special equipment."

    But he said once the ride began, there was no chance of opening the safety bar.

    "We are committed to determining the cause of this tragic accident and will utilize every resource throughout this process," Parker said in her statement. "It would be a disservice to the family to speculate regarding what transpired."

    Parks "Loosely" Regulated in Texas

    Texas Department of Insurance spokesman Jerry Hagins told the AP on Sunday that Six Flags was in compliance with state regulations requiring amusement ride operators to have $1 million liability insurance on each ride and provide proof of an annual safety inspection by a certified engineer.

    Texas is one of 21 states that does not have an agency to investigate park accidents and deaths.

    Ken Martin, an amusement ride safety inspector, told NBC 5 the state regulations for amusement parks are not as strict as other states.

    “Texas is loosely regulated, some would say not regulated at all,” Martin told NBC 5.

    Six Flags received a state-issued sticker, like an auto inspection sticker, for the Texas Giant in February. Hagins said the ride now will remain closed until it's inspected again and certified to be safe.

    "It's the ride owner's responsibility to keep it closed, to fix it, then prove to us that it's safe to start back up again," he said. "If for some reason they can't figure it out, no safety inspector is going to sign off on it."

    The ride first opened in 1990 as an all-wooden coaster and underwent a $10 million renovation to install steel-hybrid rails and reopened in 2011. It can carry up to 24 people.

    Friday's death was the second in park history.

    A 28-year-old woman died and 10 other people were injured on the Roaring Rapids ride at Six Flags Over Texas in 1999 when their raft overturned in two to three feet of water. The woman was trapped in the ride and drowned.

    NBC 5's Greg Janda and writers from the Associated Press contributed to this report.