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Texas roller coaster death: Manufacturer sends investigators

July 22, 2013|By Michael Muskal

A roller coaster manufacturer is sending investigators to Arlington, Texas, to determine what led to the death of a woman on a ride at the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park.

The dead woman has not yet been officially identified but local media reports have named her as Rosy Esparza, who with her son climbed aboard the 14-story Texas Giant roller coaster about 6:45 p.m. on Friday evening. Witness Carmen Brown who said she was next in line, said she saw the woman fall.

"She goes up like this," Brown said raising her hand up in the air. "Then when it drops to come down that’s when it released and she just tumbled.”

Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, the German company that built the cars for the Texas Giant, is sending experts to look at the shuttered ride and investigate the incident, Tobias Lindnar, a project manager for the company  in Munsterhausen, Germany, told the Dallas Morning News. Witnesses told reporters that Esparza expressed concern that the safety bar had not engaged properly. There was also speculation that the woman’s size might have been a contributing factor.

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

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

Esparza’s weight has not been disclosed. The ride does not have any weight restrictions, it was reported.

The park is leading the investigation into the death. No Texas or federal agency has direct responsibility for the ride.

U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) renewed a call Sunday for federal regulation of "roller coasters that hurtle riders at extreme speeds along precipitous drops." Markey, newly elected to the Senate, had introduced such legislation when he served in the House.

"A baby stroller is subject to tougher federal regulation than a roller coaster carrying a child in excess of 100 miles per hour," Markey said in a statement. "This is a mistake."

In Texas, the Department of Insurance issues a sticker showing that a ride has at least $1 million in liability insurance and has had an annual safety check by a certified engineer.

Six Flags received a state-issued sticker for the Texas Giant in February, department spokesman Jerry Hagins told Associated Press on Sunday.

The ride will remain closed until it is re-certified and inspected.

 “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,” Hagins said. “If for some reason they can't figure it out, no safety inspector is going to sign off on it.”

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

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