Settlement Reached in Roller-Coaster Death | Courthouse News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023
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Settlement Reached in Roller-Coaster Death

FORT WORTH (CN) - Six Flags Entertainment and roller-coaster maker Gerstlauer Amusement Rides settled a lawsuit with the family of a Dallas woman who fell 75 feet to her death on the Texas Giant.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The family of Rosa Esparza, 52, sued in October 2013 in Tarrant County Court, seeking damages for wrongful death and negligence.

Esparza was visiting Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington for the first time with her family three months earlier when she struggled to hold onto the roller coaster car while upside-down .

Grand Prairie-based Six Flags and Germany-based Gerstlauer then sued each other, each blaming the other for Esparza's death.

"Our deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers will forever be with the Esparza family," Six Flags Over Texas president Steve Martindale said in a statement Tuesday evening. "We are thankful that all parties could reach an agreed settlement."

Gerstlauer's attorney, Arnd von Waldow with Reed Smith in Pittsburgh, said the settlement "was a fair and equitable" resolution.

"From the very beginning, it was a very tragic and unfortunate event," von Waldow said Tuesday evening. "We're all glad it's over."

The Esparzas' attorneys, Frank Branson and Garret Chambers of Dallas, said in a joint statement with Six Flags that their clients are "very pleased" with the settlement and "appreciate the condolences offered by Six Flags and Gerstlauer."

The Esparzas said Six Flags was "well aware of the dangers" of its roller coasters, citing five examples of ejections at its parks since 1978.

They said Esparza was thrown against a support piling and "catapulted many feet below on a metal roof of a tunnel" after coming our from behind the safety bar in her seat.

"The roller-coaster train at issue has a set of green lights that are supposed to light when each safety bar restraint is in the allegedly 'proper' position," the Esparzas' third amended petition, filed Nov. 13, stated.

"The defendants maintain that a roller-coaster train cannot be dispatched unless all safety bar restraints are in their 'proper' positions, such that each restraint's green light is activated. This system of lights was confusing and dangerous because it had a tendency to create a false sense of security and complacency on the part of the operators of the ride."

The Esparzas claimed that Six Flags admitted that after inspections, it had replaced a "limit switch" for a restraint in a seat in the car she was riding in because a defective switch was found.

The Texas Giant is 14 stories tall, with a 79 degree drop and banking of more than 95 degrees, according to Six Flags' website. The wooden roller coaster was built in 1990 and rebuilt in 2011. It has 2.5 million annual riders.

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