published Saturday, September 14th, 2013

Six Flags reopens Texas Giant ride after death

The green and orange tracks of two other rides surround the red tracks of the Texas Giant as visitors to the park hit the second highest arc on the roller coaster in Arlington, Texas, Saturday Sept. 14, 2013. Six Flags has reopened the Texas Giant roller coaster for the first time since a rider fell 75 feet to her death.
The green and orange tracks of two other rides surround the red tracks of the Texas Giant as visitors to the park hit the second highest arc on the roller coaster in Arlington, Texas, Saturday Sept. 14, 2013. Six Flags has reopened the Texas Giant roller coaster for the first time since a rider fell 75 feet to her death.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ARLINGTON, Texas — Six Flags reopened the Texas Giant roller coaster Saturday for the first time since a rider died at the North Texas amusement park, with new precautions and warnings for people lining up more than an hour to board.

The ride opened with redesigned restraint bars and new seat belts, as well as a trial seat that riders could sit in before entering the line. The new measures did not appear to deter thousands of riders who waited an hour or more to ride the twisting wood-and-metal coaster.

Six Flags cautioned park-goers that the Texas Giant might not accommodate "guests with unique body shapes or sizes."

The ride has been closed since Rosa Ayala-Goana fell 75 feet to her death in July. A witness told local media then that she expressed concern moments before the 14-story ride began that the safety bar had not completely engaged.

Her family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Six Flags.

Six Flags says its investigation found no mechanical failure on the ride. The park is not required to submit a report to the state on what caused her to fall from the wooden coaster with steel rails that features a drop of 79 degrees and banked turns.

Riders on Saturday waited to board in the muggy summer heat, with temperatures well into the 90s. Many sat in the test chair at the start of the line beforehand. The chair gave off a loud beep every time someone sat down and pushed the restraint bar onto their lap.

As riders got into the train, two park staffers told them to raise their arms and closely checked each seat to make sure the restraint bars and seat belts were in place. Other park staff watched on the platform as riders boarded and exited. The safety checks on some trains took several minutes.

Things seemed to be normal once the ride left the platform. Riders on one train applauded once the train came to a stop. Others shouted and cheered.

Some park-goers on Saturday said that they were aware of the death on the Texas Giant, but it didn't deter them from going on the ride.

"I'm actually interested in the restraint system," said Shelton Lester, a 21-year-old from Denton, Texas, who was visiting the park with a friend.

Asked about the death, Lester said thousands upon thousands of people visited the park each year.

"Something's going to happen to someone eventually, and it's tragic, but it's statistical," he said.

His friend, 21-year-old Spencer Petersen of Farmers Branch, Texas, said he thought the ride was safe before the accident and wasn't deterred now, "as long as the ride doesn't take even longer."

More than a dozen people reported being injured on the Texas Giant between April 2008 and April 2013, according to records from the Texas Department of Insurance. Many were minor injuries, but at least one concussion was reported.

A Six Flags spokeswoman said Saturday that the ride is operating normally.

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