Family sues Six Flags just as ride reopens after fatal accident
As Six Flags Over Texas prepares to reopen the Texas Giant roller coaster after a fatal accident in July, relatives of the woman who died have sued the Arlington amusement park.
In a statement Sept. 10, Six Flags announced that its investigation of the July 19 accident - which included the ride manufacturer, Six Flags engineers and outside experts - had ruled out mechanical failure as an accident cause.
"Due to litigation, the company is not releasing any further information about the outcome of the investigation," the statement said.
Also on Sept. 10, representatives of the estate of Rosa Esparza filed suit against Six Flags Entertainment Corp. in Tarrant County's 342nd State District Court, seeking at least $1 million in damages.
According to the complaint filed by her son, Amado Esparza, and others, inspections after the accident showed that various parts of the giant roller coaster's security system were "experiencing inconsistencies and intermittent failures" on the day Rosa Esparza died.
As noted in the complaint, the roller coaster had one safety bar for each seat but no lap belts or shoulder-harness safety belts.
When the ride was in its first steep descent, Esparza's daughter heard screaming behind her and turned to see her mother upside-down, in the process of being thrown out of the car but struggling to hold onto the safety bar "for dear life," the suit stated.
Esparza, 52, was unable to resist the forces of the ride and was thrown against a support piling, falling many feet to the metal roof of a tunnel, the family claims in its suit.
Six Flags has admitted, the suit claims, that, after the accident, it replaced a restraint "limit switch" in a seat in the same car in which Esparza was riding.
As a result of Six Flags' negligence, the suit claims, Esparza was ejected from the ride and fell to her death "while her daughter and son-in-law rode along in horror and while her grandchildren waited for her at the end of the ride."
Six Flags Over Texas did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
Park officials plan to reopen the ride this weekend, the Six Flags announcement said, with new safety measures including redesigned restraint-bar pads from the manufacturer and new seat belts.
Also, the company is providing a "coaster seat" at the ride entrance so guests can test whether they fit in the car before entering the line, the announcement said.
The announcement included the company's condolences for the Esparza family.
"We are heartbroken and will forever feel the pain and sadness of this tragic accident," park president Steve Martindale said in the statement. "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."
According to the company's announcement, the Texas Giant has undergone extensive testing and has received approval from the Texas Department of Insurance to resume operation.
At the time of the accident, the Associated Press reported that the Texas Giant is 14 stories high, has a drop of 79 degrees and a bank of 95 degrees. It first opened in 1990 as an all-wooden coaster but underwent a $10 million renovation to install steel-hybrid rails and reopened in 2011, the AP said.