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Tragedy On The Texas Giant

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ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) - A woman riding a roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, plummeted to her death Friday evening around 6:45 p.m.On July 22 the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office officially identified the victim as Rosa Ayala-Goana. CBS 11 had previously identified the woman as Rosy Esparza. It was her first time to visit the popular theme park.

Rosy Esparza was thrown from The Texas Giant at Six Flags Flags Over Texas in Arlington. (credit: Esparza family)

Rosy Esparza was thrown from The Texas Giant at Six Flags Flags Over Texas in Arlington. (credit: Esparza family)

She was riding The Texas Giant, the tallest steel-hybrid roller coaster in the world when she somehow fell from the ride as her young son sat by her side. Esparza expressed concern, according to witnesses, about her lap bar not being secure. Several other witnesses on social media immediately after the incident said it appeared her restraint either broke or came loose. Investigators have yet to confirm it though.

He was screaming “My mom, my mom — we’ve got to get my mom… she’s gone,” according to multiple witnesses who were next in line to ride the roller coaster.

“We were the people standing there when the car pulled up and it was empty,” said witness John Putnam who was at the amusement park with his family.

Six Flags spokesperson Sharon Parker sent the following statement Friday night to CBS 11 via email:

“We are deeply saddened to share that earlier this evening an adult woman died in the park while on the Texas Giant.  Park medical staff and local paramedics responded immediately.  Since the safety of our guests and employees is our number one priority, the ride has been closed pending further investigation.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends during this difficult time.”

Six Flags tweeted the following after the tragic incident.

Kanisha Howell says she was standing in line with her daughter, waiting to ride the roller coaster. They said they were watching it as it reached a peak. “When it got in the air and started coming down, I don’t know if she had a seizure or what, but she fell out of the cart and just fell out of the sky. We’re leaving now because my daughter, we both cried and were terrified and I didn’t want to ride anything else,” she said.

Howell said the woman was there with children, and that the ride was immediately shut down after the accident as park goers were quickly moved away from the area.  She said emergency responders arrived but it took them awhile to actually locate the victim.

Park visitors were not told immediately of the accident, although word of the woman’s death traveled quickly by word-of-mouth and on social media.

“A little scary to know that something like that happened,” said park visitor Mel Price.

“It was just shocking to me,” said Kyra Coleman. “I never knew that someone can die at an amusement park. I always thought that they do have safety precautions and they do check everybody, so I didn’t know that this could happen.”

On Twitter, witnesses described the unimaginable horror.

“Literally just witnessed someone fly off the Texas giant two seats in front of me,” wrote Josh Fleak (@joshfleak).

Ethan Perry (@TheEthanPerry) posted: “It’s crazy that I was at Six Flags today and a woman died on the Texas giant while I was there. Who knows when your last day will be.”

The Arlington Fire Department has taken the lead in this investigation – and have yet to brief the media.

Six Flags released the following statement Saturday:

“We are committed to determining the cause of this tragic accident and will utilize every resource throughout this process. It would be a disservice to the family to speculate regarding what transpired. When we have new information to provide, we will do so.  Our thoughts, prayers and full support remain with the family.”

It’s unknown how long The Texas Giant will remain closed or how long the investigation will take. All concerts at Six Flags have been cancelled for the weekend. Since 2008, 14 injury reports (mostly minor) have taken place on The Texas Giant.

The Texas Giant (credit: CBS 11 News)

The Texas Giant (credit: CBS 11 News)

When it opened in 1990, the Texas Giant was billed as the tallest wooden roller coaster in the world.  The ride closed for the 2010 season in which the all-wooden track was replaced with a new prefabricated steel system.  The new Texas Giant reopened to the public in 2011.  According to the Six Flags website, the new ride has “beyond vertical” banked turns and the steepest drop of any wooden coaster at 79-degrees.  The original Texas Giant cost $5.5 million dollars.  The refurbishment cost an additional $10 million.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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