BY BARRY SHLACHTERbarry@star-telegram.com
Six Flags Over Texas and the German roller-coaster maker Gerstlauer have reached a settlement with the family of Rosa Esparza, the 52-year-old woman who was killed when she was thrown from the Texas Giant in Arlington last year, the company said Tuesday. Terms were not disclosed.
“Our deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers will forever be with the Esparza family,” said Steve Martindale, president of Six Flags Over Texas. “We are thankful that all parties could reach an agreed settlement.”
“The Esparza family is very pleased with the settlement and appreciates the condolences offered by Six Flags and (German manufacturer) Gerstlauer,” the family’s lawyers, Frank Branson and Garret Chambers, said in a statement released by the park.
The settlement ends a drawn-out legal battle. Esparza’s family filed a lawsuit two months after the accident against Grand Prairie-based Six Flags Entertainment Corp. and three other Six Flags-related entities, as well as Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, the 60-employee company based in Münsterhausen. Six Flags and Gerstlauer filed cross claims, blaming each other for the accident.
All sides attempted to settle the case through mediation. It didn’t work, and a three-sided court fight ensued until Tuesday’s settlement was announced.
Esparza was thrown about 75 feet from the ride in the early evening of July 19, 2013, as her daughter and son-in-law sat in front of her. It was her first visit to the amusement park. The family’s suit said Esparza was upside down in her seat and holding on for “dear life” before she fell to her death.
Following the accident, the ride was immediately shut down before reopening in September after an investigation by Six Flags found no mechanical failure was involved. Six Flags added redesigned restraint-bar pads provided by the manufacturer, as well as seat belts, and began providing a coaster seat at the ride’s entrance so guests can test whether they fit safely into the cars.
Gerstlauer had alleged that Six Flags employees failed to properly secure Esparza and to stop the ride when operators thought the restraint bar was not in its proper position. For its part, Six Flags alleged the ride was defective and dangerous, and that it followed all the recommended operational and maintenance procedures as spelled out by Gerstlauer, even at the time of the accident.
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