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Roller Coaster Tragedies Rare, but They Do Occur

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Los Angeles, CADespite a flurry of media activity surrounding amusement park accidents and amusement park deaths, tragic accidents and serious injuries are not all that common at theme parks, especially given the number of people who visit theme parks annually. That said, there are still instances in which a roller coaster accident can result in tragedy, and if the tragedy was caused by the theme park owner or operator, a lawsuit could follow.

Recently, the Los Angeles Times (1/3/14) conducted an analysis of approximately 2,000 accident reports made to the California Department of Industrial Relations from Southern California theme parks from 2007 through 2012. They found that most reports involved fainting, nausea and dizziness, followed by back and neck pain. Head injuries were the third largest category of report. Most reports involved older rides.

On average, the various parks reported around 350 injuries each year in the survey period. Of the three park visitors who died after riding an attraction, in two cases the deceased were found to have preexisting medical conditions.

Despite the relative safety of roller coasters, accidents do still happen, sometimes with tragic results. That was the experience of the family of Rosa Esparza, a 52-year-old woman who died at Six Flags Over Texas when she fell out of her seat on the Texas Giant in July. Her family has since filed a lawsuit, alleging Six Flags’ negligence was to blame for Esparza’s death. Specifically, the family alleges that Six Flags new about the risk of being ejected from a roller coaster when there is no safety belt to hold passengers in.

The company has denied it is responsible for the accident or Esparza’s death. The company said it relied on an independent contractor to ensure the safety of ride restraints and that all staff was properly trained to maintain the ride.

According to the medical examiner’s report (cited by Star-Telegram; 7/23/13), Esparza fell about 75 feet, hitting a support beam and landing on the roof of a tunnel. The main issue in the lawsuit is whether or not the safety mechanisms on the ride were functioning properly that day. The lawsuit alleges they were not, and lawyers for the plaintiffs allege the employee who checked Esparza’s restraints was only in his fourth day on the job, according to WFAA (1/14/14). Furthermore, according to reports, the panel operator - not the same person as the person checking the restraints - apparently had doubts that Esparza was properly secured in the ride.

The Esparza lawsuit is case number 342 268034 13, in the District Court, Tarrant County, Texas.


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