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Months Before Six Flags Death Industry Oversight Questioned

By Jack Douglas Jr. and Ginger Allen
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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Ginger Allen
Ginger is the Senior Investigative Reporter of the CB...
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ARLINGTON (CBS 11 NEWS) - It has been 11 days since 52-year-old Rosy Esparza fell to her death from the Texas Giant roller-coaster at Six Flags. Since then, lawmakers in both Texas and in Washington have said more needs to be done to regulate amusement rides such as the Texas Giant.

But the I-Team has now learned that there were questions about amusement ride safety, and how to monitor the industry, long before the July 19 death of Esparza, including concerns from the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), the only government agency with any oversight into amusement park safety in the state.

In a report to the Texas legislature last December, the TDI said it “does not have an effective and efficient means of monitoring compliance with the requirements of the Amusement Ride Safety Inspection and Insurance Act.”

The agency also told lawmakers it did not have “an effective means of recourse when instances of noncompliance are identified.”

And it suggested moving its oversight of the amusement park industry to a “different state agency” that “may be better equipped or have the appropriate mission to regulate the amusement ride industry.”

The I-Team has also learned that Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, sponsored a bill that, if passed, would have moved oversight of amusement ride safety from the TDI to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. However, that proposal never went up for a vote because some lawmakers believed more needed to be done to tackle oversight of the fast-growing amusement ride industry.

Sources also say new laws addressing ride safety are not expected to be considered until the next legislative session.

Texas is the only state where the department of insurance oversees the amusement park industry.

In a statement to the I-Team, TDI spokesman Jerry Hagins said changes are needed because of a 400 percent increase in amusement rides in Texas, much of it due to rides known as “bounce houses.”

He added that the agency is “continuing to work with the legislature to explore options for improving amusement ride regulation in Texas.”

Officials at Six Flags, meanwhile, have declined to elaborate on its investigation into how Rosy Esparza fell from the Texas Giant.

In an email to the I-Team, park spokeswoman Sharon Parker said, “The accident remains under investigation by both company and external experts. Until complete, we will not comment or speculate on what happened.”

If you want to reach CBS 11′s Senior Investigative Producer Jack Douglas Jr., you can email him at jdouglas@cbs.com. If you want to reach CBS 11′s Investigative reporter Ginger Allen, you can email her at gingera@ktvt.com.

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