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Texas roller coaster reopens after woman's death

By CNN Staff
updated 9:42 PM EDT, Sat September 14, 2013
The Texas Giant has been closed since July 19, when Rosa Esparza, 52, fell out of a car and plummeted to her death.
The Texas Giant has been closed since July 19, when Rosa Esparza, 52, fell out of a car and plummeted to her death.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas has been closed since the July death
  • Rosa Esparza, 52, was killed when she fell out of the ride
  • Her family has filed a wrongful-death suit against Six Flags
  • New safety measures include an improved safety bar and lap belts

(CNN) -- The Texas Giant roller coaster reopened Saturday with improved safety measures and long lines of eager riders, nearly two months after a woman plunged to her death while on the ride.

Riders lined up at the roller coaster just after Six Flags Over Texas opened at 10:30 a.m., and long lines were still there by evening, CNN affiliate WFAA reported.

The Texas Giant had been closed since July 19, when Rosa Esparza, 52, fell out of a car and plummeted to her death. Her family filed a civil wrongful-death lawsuit Tuesday, accusing Six Flags of negligence.

At 14 stories, the wood-and-steel coaster boasts a steep drop of 79 degrees and a bank of 95 degrees, according to Six Flags.

The improved safety measures include a test seat at the ride's entrance so riders can voluntarily check how well they fit into the seat. Cars have a newly designed "T-bar" restraint along with seatbelts, WFAA reported.

A nearby diagram shows the right way for the bar and belt to fit: both snugly at the rider's waist. The wrong-way diagram shows the seat belt in the correct position but the metal bar well above the rider's waist.

"You can tell they're being extra-careful," one rider told WFAA of park officials Saturday.

According to the lawsuit, Esparza's daughter, who was riding in front of her mother, heard screams and turned around to see her mother being thrown out of the car.

Esparza was thrown against the ride and catapulted onto the metal roof of a tunnel below, the lawsuit says, dying from traumatic injuries.

"As Rosa Esparza's tragic death starkly illustrates, errors on the part of the Six Flags Defendants turned a thrilling illusion into a nightmarish reality," the lawsuit says. "Customers of the park expect mock scares and delighted screams as they ride the Texas Giant roller-coaster, but they certainly do not expect to be placed in any real danger, whatsoever."

Six Flags spokeswoman Sandra Daniels responded in a statement Thursday, "While our thoughts and prayers remain with Ms. Esparza's family and friends, there are a number of inaccuracies contained in the recent lawsuit and we intend to defend ourselves vigorously."

Park officials said in a statement Tuesday that an investigation at the Arlington, Texas, park revealed that there had been no mechanical failure on the ride, but it declined to release more information because of pending litigation.

Texas state officials have approved the reopening of the ride, the statement said, adding that it had undergone extensive testing.

CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet and Joe Sutton contributed to this report.

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