ARLINGTON, TX – Back in July we reported on Rosa Esparza, the 54-year-old grandmother who was killed after being thrown from a Six Flags roller coaster.
The family eventually sued Six Flags, the suit revealing some gruesome details regarding Esparza’s death. Now a 20-page police report by the Arlington Police Department reveals that the ride operator didn’t think that Esparza’s safety bar was secured correctly.
On July 19, Esparza was at Six Flags over Texas with her daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren. It was her first time at the theme park, and her first time riding one the park’s signature attractions – the Texas Giant. This wooden coaster has one of the steepest drops in the world for a wooden roller coaster, yet didn’t include seat belts or shoulder harnesses for the rider.
At the time, the only thing holding your ass in the seat was a T-bar mechanism that locks over your lap. Despite her size and shape, Esparza met all the qualifications needed to ride the coaster as evident by the ride operators letting her on in the first place.
Esparza was seated in the front seat of the second car, while her daughter and son-in-law sat in the two rear seats of the first car. Before the ride started, one of the employees went around and checked all of the safety bars to ensure they were locked. The employee would later tell police they remembered thinking the restraint was not all the way down on Esparza’s lap, but the ride’s computer registered it as locked.
With the computer alerting the ride operator everything was ready to go, and that the safety bars were locked in place, an all clear was given and the ride began. It was during the coaster’s first big descent that Esparza’s daughter realized something was really, really wrong.
Hearing screams from behind her, Esparza’s daughter turned around to see her mother upside-down in her seat. Her head was almost in the floor with her legs sticking straight up in the air. Her daughter could do nothing but watch in horror as her mother tried desperately to hold on to the safety bar before the twists and turns of the coaster shook her loose.
Esparza ended up hitting one of the coaster’s support beams before being catapulted 75 ft, her body landing on the tin roof covering one of the coaster’s lower tracks. It took firefighters an hour to find her body, which was partially wrapped around a support beam. The report states Esparza’s lower body was on top of the roof and her nearly severed upper body was hanging over the side of the roof.
I’ve included this POV video of the Texas Giant, just so you can get a better feel for the ride. A ride that looks awesome, btw.
The family’s lawsuit was announced on the same day Six Flags announced the re-opening of the Texas Giant, which had remained closed since Esparza’s death. The suit claims park operators were negligent in not having an adequate restraint system in place, and are seeking $1 million in damages.
The suit states that inspections performed on the roller coaster after Esparza’s death “showed that various parts of the security systems on the ride were experiencing inconsistencies and intermittent failures.” Basically, they found that the computer would indicate the individual lap bars were locked, although they could all be in varying positions.
The suit also claims that after inspections were completed, a “limit switch” was found to be defective in the very car in which Esparza had been riding, and had to be replaced. The lawsuit names Six Flags Entertainment Corporation, Six Flags Theme Parks, Inc, Texas Flags, Ltd. and Six Flags Over Texas as defendants. You can read the lawsuit here.
Six Flags has denied “each and every” allegation in suit, saying they were not responsible, and that independent contractors were responsible for the passenger restraint system.
“We are heartbroken and will forever feel the pain and sadness of this tragic accident,” said Steve Martindale, president of Six Flags Over Texas. “The safety of our guests and employees is our company’s absolute highest priority and we try to take every reasonable precaution to eliminate the risk of accidents.”
That being said, the Texas Giant re-opened to the public on September 14 – complete with a new set of re-designed restraint-bar pads from the manufacturer and new seat belts. The park also provides a coaster ride seat at the ride’s entrance so potential riders make sure their fat asses can squeeze into the coaster’s new restraint system before getting in line.