When Fun Turns Tragic: a Look at Amusement Park Accidents

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Amusements parks are engrained in American tradition.  The roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, cotton candy, and endless entertainment make a trip to the amusement park a joyous family occasion.  Sometimes, however, that amusement park trip takes a catastrophic turn.  Recently, a 52-year-old Dallas woman was thrown from her seat on the Texas Giant, a 14 story Six Flag’s rollercoaster.  Rosa Esparza fell over 75 feet to her death.  Esparza’s daughter and son-in-law were riding in front of her and turned when they heard Esparza screaming for help.  They saw her attempting to hold on for dear life, then her feet went in the air, and the next moment she was gone.

Esparza’s family is now suing Six Flags for the loss of their loved one.  The lawsuit alleges that the T-shaped lap bar designed to keep riders safely in the ride was not working properly.  The lawsuit states that inspections done to the roller coaster after Esparza’s death show parts of the security systems on the ride were experiencing intermittent failures.

Following the accident, Six Flags replaced a “limit switch” in the car Esparza was riding in.  The “limit switch” is an indicator that shows the safety bar is locked in place, and the switch was found to be defective in Esparza’s car.

Esparza’s family is seeking over $1 million in compensation and has requested a jury trial.  Six Flags has declined to comment on the issue but has insisted there were no mechanical failures.  Esparza’s attorney said it is not clear whether the safety bar locked that day, or whether perhaps it was not properly designed to accommodate someone of a larger girth, which Esparza was.

Six Flags reopened the Texas Giant two months after Esparza’s death with the addition of new safety features.  The park added additional safety restraints, altered the lap bar, and added additional warnings that a person’s physical characteristics may prevent them from riding if the restraint bar could not lock properly.  The park also added a test chair where patrons could determine ahead of time whether they could be properly restrained.

Amusement park accidents are not terribly common, but, as Esparza’s case demonstrates, they have the potential to turn deadly.  Roller coasters travel at incredible speeds, plunging to extreme highs and lows, and turning in all manner of unnatural directions.  A mechanical or safety restraint failure under these circumstances can be catastrophic.  In 2007, in Japan, a mechanical failure proved deadly.  A six car roller coaster at Expoland called the Fujin Raijin II derailed and hit a guardrail due to a wheel axle on one of the cars breaking.  The high speed of the rails caused one woman to die from the impact and injured 19 others.  That same year, in the US, a young girl’s legs were severely injured when cables snapped on the Superman Tower of Power ride at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville.  The teen had to have some of her left leg amputated and underwent multiple surgeries due to the incident.  This amusement park victim has filed suit for her injuries.

Besides injured riders of roller coasters, numerous other amusement park goers have been struck by moving roller coasters.  In 2009, at another Six Flags location, a 17-year-old boy was decapitated by a roller coaster.  The teenager allegedly ventured into a restricted area while attempting to retrieve his hat which he lost riding the Batman roller coaster.  The ride struck him traveling at 50 mph, decapitating him instantly.

Amusement park accidents are not an everyday occurrence, but if you or a loved one has been injured on an amusement park ride or while at an amusement park, you may be entitled to compensation.  The Giddens Law Firm has experience representing plaintiffs in a wide range of personal injury and wrongful death actions, regardless of how challenging or complex.  We are a team of skilled litigators who will fight hard for your recovery.  Call us today at 601-355-2022 for a free and completely confidential case analysis.