Cause of Six Flags coaster death remains a mystery

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by JOBIN PANICKER

WFAA

Posted on July 20, 2013 at 9:45 PM

ARLINGTON — Rosy Esparza has been named by family members as the woman who fell to her death from the Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas on Friday evening.

It was all quiet Saturday where the Texas Giant normally roars on a summer day. Someone placed a bouquet of flowers near the entrance on Saturday in Esparza's honor.

Her family said it was her first time at the theme park.

Six Flags has been providing occasional updates. In the most recent statement, issued Saturday afternoon, a spokesman for the park said they are "committed to determining the cause of this tragic accident and will utilize every resource throughout this process."

Outside of the Texas Giant, it was business as usual at Six Flags on Saturday, something that surprised Zavante McGriff.

"Somebody died, and I thought the whole park would at least be closed down until next week or something," he said.

Most patrons talked with Saturday knew what had happened on Friday night, but were unfazed.

"My mom told me about it, and I was shocked and devastated about what happened," Javonte Jones said.

The DeLeons had been planning their Six Flags trip for a while, but that didn't mean Francis was at ease.

"I don't know... It's scary," she said. "I'm a very anxious person; I don't know if I'm going to get on."

It's unclear how long the Texas Giant will remain closed. The Six Flags spokeswoman made it clear they will not rush to comment on how this may have happened.

An amusement park safety expert said there are usually multiple simultaneous investigations after an accident like this, and the results may take days or even weeks to emerge.

Also Friday, an Ohio amusement park's thrill ride malfunctioned when a boat accidentally rolled backward down a hill and flipped over in water, injuring all seven people on it. Operators stopped the Shoot the Rapids water ride after the accident, said officials with Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio.

 

Six Flags Over Texas opened in 1961 and was the first amusement park in the Six Flags system. It is 17 miles west of downtown Dallas. The park's first fatality happened in 1999. A 28-year-old Arkansas woman drowned and 10 other passengers were injured when a raft-like boat on the Roaring Rapids ride overturned in 2 to 3 feet of water.

 

There were 1,204 ride-related injuries reported in the United States in 2011 -- about 4.3 for every million visitors -- according to the National Safety Council's most recent data. Of those, 61 were deemed serious, the March 2013 report said, and roller coasters accounted for 405 injuries.

 

Fatalities were not listed in the report, which was prepared for Alexandria, Va.-based International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Also, only 144 of the 383 amusement facilities with rides in the United States responded to the survey.

 

A 2005 report to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated just over four people died annually on amusement rides from 1987 to 2002. The estimate includes both mobile amusement park rides and fixed-site rides.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

E-mail jpanicker@wfaa.com

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