Six Flags Over Texas and Gerstlauer battle liability over 2013 New Texas Giant death

Posted Monday, July 14, 2014 8:56 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Nearly a year after a Dallas woman fell to her death from the Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas, the legal battle over liability in the accident is far from over. Rosa Esparza’s family wants to find out why the 52-year-old woman fell off the thrill ride. Lawyers for Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, the German company that designed the coaster’s train cars, is blaming Six Flags, while the amusement park company is pointing the finger back at the ridemaker.

Read more from The Star-Telegram.

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Monday, July 14, 2014 10:32 AM

Not to absolve SF of any liability in this case, but the system said that Ms. Esparza was "safe to ride." To me, that puts the burden pretty squarely between the ride vehicle manufacturer and the control systems. Some will undoubtedly mention Ms. Esparza's voiced concerns prior to dispatch, and there's some argument to be made there...but I'm likely to counter with the idea that minimum-wage ride ops are trained to obey the system control's opinions regarding rider safety.

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Monday, July 14, 2014 1:04 PM

I think all parties are pretty much at fault here. The park and the manufacturer. The park is at fault because the rider said she didn't think she was in safely and let her go on anyway. And the manufacturer is at fault because the controls allowed the ride to dispatch and clearly the restraint wasn't locked.

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Monday, July 14, 2014 1:24 PM

But the restraint was locked, the rider just didn't fit properly. What I find inexcusable on the part of the park is that Gerstlauer supplied seat belts with the train that were never installed until after the rider was ejected.

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Monday, July 14, 2014 1:27 PM

Careful! We don't know that! I have not seen anything about the restraint to indicate anything other than that the bar was down and locked. If we want to try and diagnose what went wrong, we know that Six Flags changed the seat and lap bar padding. But I have not seen anything that indicates either an improperly secured lap bar or a lap bar latch failure.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Monday, July 14, 2014 1:28 PM

I think all coasters should be equipped with seat belts. That extra layer of safety can go a long way. It would've prevented the rider from being ejected.

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Monday, July 14, 2014 1:36 PM

Seat belts are contraindicated on most rides. We do not know that a seat belt would have prevented an ejection in this case, in fact I can think of several rider ejections which resulted on rides where seat belts we reinstalled and in use (1).

We know from previous articles that Gerstlauer claims the wanted seat belts on the ride, but in the design stages Six Flags declared in no uncertain terms that there were to be no seat belts on the ride. This means that it was a further design requirement that the ride be safe to operate without seat belts. In fact, even when seat belts are provided, it is important that the ride be able to adequately secure a rider in the absence of a seat belt because there is no way to prevent a rider from circumventing the belt (2).

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

(1): Perilous Plunge, Hydro, Superman: Ride of Steel, and Ride of Steel all managed to eject riders who were wearing seat belts.

(2): Raven

--DCAjr

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Monday, July 14, 2014 1:42 PM

I don't see how someone can be ejected with a seat belt. I think that would indicate it was improperly buckled. And if the restraint failed, it was also improperly locked.

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Monday, July 14, 2014 1:44 PM

Wasn't there something malfunctioning with the go/no go lights/computer in weeks prior to this woman's death? Not that that makes it any easier to determine fault (manufacturer makes malfunctioning electronics versus SF didn't repair properly), but just curious if anyone else remembers mention of this...?

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Monday, July 14, 2014 2:58 PM

If a restraint fails, you still have a seat belt holding you in (not as well.) but you still have that extra help, as your holding on to something for dear life. Now, if there wasn't a seat belt to begin with, you're going to have one hell of a time holding on.

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Monday, July 14, 2014 3:13 PM

Thabto said:

I don't see how someone can be ejected with a seat belt. I think that would indicate it was improperly buckled. And if the restraint failed, it was also improperly locked.

On the Intamin rides with T bar restraints it is absolutely possible to come out of your seat even with the seat belt fastened properly. There is a physics dynamic to the issue related to seat design/rider positioning, body mass dimensions/percentages (ie. body fat/water), G-forces, etc. The problem has always been the seat design.

Why Intamin decided to go with a level/flat seat position design versus a bucket seat position that keeps the hips lower than the thighs/knees is beyond me. B&M does this and in almost 25 years of manufacturing not one of their attractions has experienced a rider ejection.

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Monday, July 14, 2014 3:27 PM

Well Intamin is well... Intamin.

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Monday, July 14, 2014 3:50 PM

The Dragster seats fixed that problem. Your knees are higher than your butt, and the lap bar vertical is bent so the horizontal bar pins your thighs into the seat.

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Monday, July 14, 2014 9:21 PM

Yes, Dragster has a different seat design. What I am noticing now are the two new mega-drop towers (SFMM/SFGA) and what looks like flat seat bottoms, can anyone confirm? Working at CGA after the Drop Zone fatality, I always felt one of the contributing factors was the fact the boy was able to slide out underneath the restraint due to the flat seat design, if they were deep bucket seats it would prevent this issue. Instead of altering the seat bottom they just added seat belts, I guess thinking they would prevent such another incident from occurring.

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Monday, July 14, 2014 9:50 PM

I dislike the flat seat design on drop towers. I don't recall it being as bad on Lex.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014 1:25 AM

I honestly can't see Gerstlauer losing this battle.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014 1:34 AM

Not in the traditional "jury hands down a not guilty verdict" sense, but everyone is going to settle in this suit and everyone is going to walk away losing something.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014 1:41 AM

Thabto said:

I think all coasters should be equipped with seat belts. That extra layer of safety can go a long way. It would've prevented the rider from being ejected.

I disagree. Properly designed lap bar restraints are more than sufficient, as can be seen by the large number of major coasters that operate with them.

Blue Fire at Europa Park is a fine example - an intense layout with airtime and inversions, yet a simple lap bar restraint.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014 10:33 AM

Tekwardo said:

I dislike the flat seat design on drop towers. I don't recall it being as bad on Lex.

One of the absolute worst things about the S&S towers, to me, is the extremely FLAT seats. They're extremely uncomfortable, and they just don't feel right.

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