ARLINGTON, Texas — Officials from a German roller coaster manufacturing company are traveling to Arlington, Texas, to inspect the Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas amusement park after a woman was killed when she was tossed off the ride Friday evening.
Tobias Lindnar, a project manager at Gerstlauer Amusement Rides in Munsterhausen, Germany, told the Dallas Morning News by phone that he is certain the death is not the result of a defective safety bar, which some witnesses said failed to restrain the passenger, identified as Rosa Ayala-Goana, 52. Mr. Lindnar said the Texas Giant is one of 50 or so roller coasters built by Gerstlauer in operation around the world, and none of them have ever had safety bar problems in past three decades.
The 14-story Texas Giant was built as an all-wooden roller coaster in 1990. It was later redesigned with a steel track and reopened in 2011. The ride, billed as the tallest steel-hybrid roller coaster in the world, is 153 feet tall at its highest peak. It has a drop of 147 feet and a pitch of 79 degrees, helping it to achieve speeds of 65 mph. The track also features sections with a bank of 95 degrees, turning the train car on its side.
A witness who was next in line to get on the roller coaster said that she saw Ms. Ayala-Goana fall out of the ride.
“She goes up like this,” Carmen Brown told Dallas’s WFAA ABC, lifting her hand into the air. “Then when it drops to come down, that’s when it released and she just tumbled.” Ms. Brown said that the woman fell out of the car as it turned to go down a hill on its side.
Ms. Brown told the Dallas Morning News that she heard Ms. Ayala-Goana express her concern to a ride operator that her safety bar wasn’t properly secured.
“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.'” Ms. Brown told the Dallas Morning News.
“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,” Ms. Brown added.
The tragic accident has re-ignited debate over whether the federal government should regulate fixed-site rides for safety. Texas is also one of more than a dozen states that do not subject amusement park rides at permanent sites like Six Flags Over Texas to safety inspections. The federal government only has authority to regulate rides at mobile sites, such as carnivals and fairs, but seldom does because of the agency’s small size.
U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who called for amusement ride safety regulations when he was a member of Congress, advocated again for federal regulations of “roller coasters that hurtle riders at extreme speeds along precipitous drops.”