On Sept. 12, the family of Rosa Esparza, a 52-year-old woman who died earlier this summer, filed a lawsuit against Six Flags Over Texas, according to ABC News. On July 19, Esparza was hurled 75 feet from a cart maneuvering twists and turns at over 60 miles per hour on the ride Texas Giant. Upon the amusement park’s announcement that the ride was would reopen, the family promptly filed suit accusing Six Flags of negligence and requesting at least $1 million in compensation.
The suit alleges that the T-shaped lap bar that is installed in the amusement park’s roller coasters and is intended to securely fasten riders in place had malfunctioned while Esparza was on the ride. Inspections of the Texas Giant following Esparza’s death confirmed the faulty lap bar, exposing inconsistencies and intermittent failures within various parts of the ride’s safety system.
Six Flags, however, maintains that there were no mechanical failures on the cart Esparza was riding. Instead, what has been highlighted in the issue is Esparza’s physique; debate has arisen over whether or not the lap bar was designed to secure someone of her weight, a 200-plus pounds supported by a mere 5-foot-2 frame, according to ABC News.
Esparza’s family is entirely correct in pursuing a suit against Six Flags. It is outrageous to pin the fault on Esparza for not being aware of her own weight in relation to the cart when the one responsibility maintained by roller coaster operators is to guarantee the safety of patrons through safety measure compliance.
One cannot be quick to assume that Esparza’s failure to comply with safety guidelines of weight measurements was her own fault. The truth of the matter is that a rider’s unfamiliarity with safety guidelines is credited entirely to the negligence and incompetence of roller coaster personnel in fulfilling their sole responsibility of ensuring patron safety on rides, thus rightfully pinning the family’s blame on the amusement park.
There have been numerous insensitive opinions asserting that the lawsuit is just an extension of “sue-happy” American culture, noting that Esparza is the only one who maintains responsibility for her death by failing to recognize that the ride was not designed to support someone of her stature.
This argument is outrageous and roots itself in pure ignorance; the indisputable fact of the matter is that the primary responsibility of amusement park personnel is to make certain that riders are familiar with safety measurements before they are seated in their cart. Furthermore, though it would behoove them to be aware of safety regulations, it is entirely irrelevant whether or not park patrons are familiar with these measurements — if an individual is unfit to be on a certain ride, personnel are fully responsible for knowing the lethal repercussions of breaching safety measurements and ensuring that that individual does not end up riding the roller coaster, period.
Another handful of critics are asserting that many overweight individuals often create a fuss over personnel stating that they will not be able to ride, and that this protest often leads to personnel simply allowing them to ride because they do not want to deal with the complaints. This comment makes it seem as though roller coaster operators are held up at gunpoint by overweight patrons and have no choice but to allow them to ride. But if there are personnel who allow unfit riders to ride solely because they raise hell over being told otherwise, it is self-explanatory that personnel is irresponsible and unfit to be monitoring the safety of patrons at an amusement park. The job of the personnel is to ensure rider safety, not to negate it.
According to statistics compiled by the Amusement Safety Organization, Esparza’s death is just one of many repeatedly reported at Six Flags attractions across the nation –— it seems that the entire system has the same problem of incompetent, ill-trained personnel. If the amusement park chain persists to fail in both addressing this issue and putting an end to the death counts that continue to accumulate year after year, then it very well may also cease to operate in the near future.
Rojine Ariani is a sophomore majoring in international relations and political science.
Follow her on Twitter @RojineTAriani