The Texas Giant rollercoaster. Image courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SixFlagsTexasGiant-3999.jpg
When Rosy Esparza visited Six Flags in Arlington, TX this July, all she had in mind was a fun day out with her family, including her son. What started out as a summer outing soon turned into tragedy when the woman fell to her death from the famed Texas Giant Roller Coaster. Though investigations are still underway regarding the cause of the incident, initial witness reports indicate that the woman was afraid her safety harness was not fastened correctly. Although she expressed her concerns to a park employee, he dismissed them saying that she was safe. There is no doubt that there will be a long investigation into this tragic incident, but early reports seem to indicate that improper safety proceedings, the carelessness of an employee, and perhaps improper employee training were the causes of this accident.
Though amusement park accidents are actually quite rare, they do occur. Here is a look at four other catastrophic incidents and a brief examination of who was at fault.
- In 2007, Kaitlyn Lassiter and a friend were riding the Superman Tower of Power at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. The ride lifts the seats 177 feet into the air and then sends it plummeting down at speeds of 50 mph. When Kaitlyn and the other riders were partway up, several cables snapped, wrapping themselves around the girls. Both of Kaitlyn’s feet were severed, and though doctors were able to reattach her right foot, her left was irreparably damaged. Because the park was clearly at fault for its unsafe ride, the Lassiters were able to reach a settlement that would give Kaitlyn money for the rest of her life. However, nothing can ever give her back her complete mobility and the health she once enjoyed.
- In 1964, a woman fell from her seat on the Matterhorn in Disneyland and was struck by another car. Investigations revealed that the woman’s seatbelt was unbuckled when she fell. Though the court settlement was kept a secret, Disney changed the type of seatbelt on the ride, a good indication that faulty seatbelts – and thus the park – were to blame for the tragic death.
- Action Park, which operated from 1978 to 1996, was so beset with accidents, it would have been amusing if it were not so tragic. Guests at the park suffered countless minor injuries and six fatalities. Three people died in the wave pool, one died from a heart attack from the shock of cold water, one died from head trauma on a luge ride, and the sixth died from exposed electrical wiring on a kayak ride. The ride also boasted the Cannonball Loop that was so dangerous it was shut down after only one month. Despite multiple lawsuits, the park managed to stay open for almost 20 years until the increasing number of lawsuits forced the park to close.
- Similar to the tragedy of Rosy Esparza, Sam Nguyen was a regular at Six Flags AstroWorld in Houston in 2001. While riding the Mayan Mindbender, he flew out of his seat, landing on the concrete beneath. Every one of his facial bones was broken, his hip was splintered, his pelvis broken, and there was a bone fragment lodged in his brain. Investigations into the incident revealed that park employees had been reporting problems with the lap bars for weeks, yet the ride continued to operate.Fortunately, serious accidents at amusement parks are quite rare. But the fresh tragedy in Texas reminds us all that these accidents should be even less common and parks should be held responsible when such catastrophes occur on their grounds. Because no matter how rare these accidents are, for Rosy Esparza’s family or for Sam Nguyen or Kaitlyn Lassiter, these tragedies occurred to them, and they changed their lives forever.
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