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Company To Inspect Texas Coaster Where Woman Fell To Her Death

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

A German roller coaster maker is sending officials to a North Texas amusement park to inspect a ride after a woman fell to her death.

Tobias Lindnar, a project manager for Gerstlauer Amusement Rides in Munsterhausen, Germany, told The Dallas Morning News that the company will investigate what led to Friday's fatal accident at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington.

Witnesses said the woman expressed concern about the Texas Giant roller coaster's safety bar not completely engaging as the ride was starting. The coaster is touted as the tallest steel-hybrid roller coaster in the world.

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

Lindnar said 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.

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

Park spokeswoman Sharon Parker confirmed in a statement Saturday that the victim died while riding the 14-story Texas Giant, but wouldn't give specifics about what happened.

Arlington police have referred information about the woman's identity to the medical examiner's office in Tarrant County, which hadn't disclosed her name as of Sunday afternoon and didn't respond to phone messages left by The Associated Press.

Lindnar wouldn't address the hydraulic bar's operation or whether park employees should be able to determine if a person's body is too close to the front of the train car to prevent the bar from being effective.

"At this time I don't want to speak about the technicals," he said. "It's not so easy. It's some special equipment."

But he said once the ride began, there was no chance of opening the safety bar.

"We are committed to determining the cause of this tragic accident and will utilize every resource throughout this process," Parker said in her statement. "It would be a disservice to the family to speculate regarding what transpired."

Police, fire and emergency medical services responded to the park around 6:45 p.m. Friday after calls about a woman who fell from a car while riding a roller coaster. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Texas Department of Insurance spokesman Jerry Hagins told the AP on Sunday that Six Flags was in compliance with state regulations requiring amusement ride operators to have $1 million liability insurance on each ride and provide proof of an annual safety inspection by a certified engineer.

Six Flags received a state-issued sticker, like an auto inspection sticker, for the Texas Giant in February. Hagins said the ride now will remain closed until it's inspected again and certified to be safe.

"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," he 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.

The ride first opened in 1990 as an all-wooden coaster and underwent a $10 million renovation to install steel-hybrid rails and reopened in 2011. It can carry up to 24 people.

PREVIOUS STORY:

An Arlington police sergeant says a woman who died while riding a roller coaster at a Six Flags amusement park in North Texas fell from the ride.

Sgt. Christopher Cook told The Associated Press on Saturday that police believe the woman fell Friday at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, and that there appears to have been no foul play.

He says police, fire and emergency medical services responded to the park around 6:45 p.m. Friday in reference to a woman who had fallen from a train car while riding a roller coaster. He says she was pronounced dead at the scene.

She had been riding the Texas Giant. Dubbed the tallest steel-hybrid coaster in the world, it reaches 14 stories high, drops 79 degrees and banks 95 degrees.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)


Previous Story:

Investigators will try to determine if a woman who died while riding a roller coaster at a Six Flags amusement park in North Texas fell from the ride after some witnesses said she wasn't properly secured.

The accident happened just after 6:30 p.m. Friday at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington. Park spokeswoman Sharon Parker confirmed that a woman died while riding the Texas Giant roller coaster - dubbed the tallest steel-hybrid coaster in the world - but did not specify how she was killed. Witnesses told local media outlets the woman fell.

"We are committed to determining the cause of this tragic accident and will utilize every resource throughout this process," Parker said in a statement Saturday. "It would be a disservice to the family to speculate regarding what transpired."

Arlington police Sgt. Christopher Cook, the department spokesman, referred all questions to Parker. Messages left for Parker by The Associated Press were not returned.

Carmen Brown told The Dallas Morning News that she was waiting in line to get on the ride when the accident happened and witnessed the woman being strapped in.

"She goes up like this. Then when it drops to come down, that's when it (the safety bar) released and she just tumbled," Brown, of Arlington, told the newspaper. "They didn't secure her right. One of the employees from the park - one of the ladies - she asked her to click her more than once, and they were like, `As long you heard it click, you're OK.' Everybody else is like, `Click, click, click.'

"Hers only clicked once. Hers was the only one that went down once, and she didn't feel safe, but they let her still get on the ride," Brown said.

Six Flags said the ride will be closed as the investigation continues, and a concert scheduled for Saturday was canceled.

The Texas Giant is 14 stories high, and has a drop of 79 degrees and a bank of 95 degrees. It can carry up to 24 riders. It first opened in 1990 as an all-wooden coaster but underwent a $10 million renovation to install steel-hybrid rails and reopened in 2011.

When the car that the woman had been riding in returned to the loading zone, two people got out and were visibly upset, Rockwell resident John Putman told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

"They were screaming, `My mom! My mom! Let us out, we need to go get her!" Putman told the newspaper.

Also Friday, an Ohio amusement park's thrill ride malfunctioned when a boat accidentally rolled backward down a hill and flipped over in water, injuring all seven people on it. Operators stopped the Shoot the Rapids water ride after the accident, said officials with Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio.

Six Flags Over Texas opened in 1961 and was the first amusement park in the Six Flags system. It is 17 miles west of downtown Dallas. The park's first fatality happened in 1999. A 28-year-old Arkansas woman drowned and 10 other passengers were injured when a raft-like boat on the Roaring Rapids ride overturned in 2 to 3 feet of water.

There were 1,204 ride-related injuries reported in the United States in 2011 - about 4.3 for every million visitors - according to the National Safety Council's most recent data. Of those, 61 were deemed serious, the March 2013 report said, and roller coasters accounted for 405 injuries.

Fatalities were not listed in the report, which was prepared for Alexandria, Va.-based International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Also, only 144 of the 383 amusement facilities with rides in the United States responded to the survey.

A 2005 report to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated just over four people died annually on amusement rides from 1987 to 2002. The estimate includes both mobile amusement park rides and fixed-site rides.


Previous Story:

A woman has died while riding an amusement park roller coaster in North Texas.

Police records show the incident happened just after 6:30 p.m. Friday at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington. A statement issued by park spokeswoman Sharon Parker says the woman died while on the Texas Giant roller coaster. Witnesses say she fell.

Six Flags said it was closing the section of the park around the accident site. It also expressed sadness over the accident.

The Texas Giant reaches 14 stories high and has a drop of 79 degrees. It can carry up to 24 riders.

In Ohio, a boat on a thrill ride at an amusement park that bills itself as the best in the world accidentally rolled backward down a hill and flipped over in water when the ride malfunctioned Friday, injuring all seven people on it.

The Cedar Point amusement park says operators stopped the Shoot the Rapids water ride after the accident, which occurred on the ride's first hill. Park police officers, medical technicians, ride operators and park visitors waded into the water and helped the passengers off the boat.


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