ARLINGTON — The horrifying final moments of Rosy Esparza's life the day she was thrown from the Texas Giant roller coaster on July 19 is detailed from witness accounts in an Arlington police report.
In the 92-page report, obtained by WFAA through The Dallas Morning News, witnesses described the moments before the train took off through the moment Esparza was thrown from the car and the ride came to an end at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington.
In July, the Tarrant County Medical Examiner determined the 52-year-old woman was killed when she fell 75 feet and struck a support beam.
After an extensive search, her body was discovered by Officer J. Alvarez, who wrote that he spotted her from an observation deck.
"Upon observing the body, I could see that the body had completely been severed almost in half and came to rest against a wooden beam on top of a metal building," Alvarez reported.
The metal building was the top of the "Honkey Tonk" tunnel covering a lower track, said investigator J. Fernandes in the report.
Esparza sat in the third row of the train and no one sat beside her.
According to the report, a unidentified Six Flags employee told police that when she or he checked Esparza's restraint, they felt it was "a little high, or not as tight as it should be." The employee said she or he went back to check indicator lights on the control panel that light up when the restraints are not secure and there were no signs of a problem.
The employee said if there was a malfunction with the indicator, the system would halt the train from being able to leave the station.
The employee also told the officer there was a previous problem with the train, called the "red train," a few days before the accident. In that instance, maintenance was called out to fix sensors that were not working properly.
While the report revealed some conflicting statements from witnesses at the scene, the consensus was Esparza came loose from the restraint during the first descent of the ride.
Cody Rush spoke with News 8 from his home in Tulsa. He was on the same train with a friend and said they were within arm’s reach of Esparza. He said she was laughing and smiling when the ride started, but things took a horrible turn after the first major descent.
The victim's daughter, Aracely Segovia, also rode the train with her husband. They were seated in front of Esparza. In the report, Segovia said she heard yelling after the first descent.
Then, when the train went over the second bump, witnesses said Esparza was thrown forward violently and may have hit her head
"Aracely described her mother as almost completely upside down with her head near the floor of the cart and her feet almost straight up in the air," Det. C. Blank wrote. "As the ride began the third ascent into the turn, Aracely observed her mother being tossed out of the cart."
Joshua Fleak, 19, said he was sitting directly behind the victim and saw her ejected from the ride head first.
When Rush saw Esparza roll out of the car, he got scared.
"We were holding on to each other and praying," he said. "That was the longest roller coaster ride of my life.”
Several witnesses described hearing a popping sound from Esparza's seat when the train came down on the descent.
An experienced ride operator said when the red train went by, she or he remembered thinking the restraint wasn't all the way down on Esparza's thigh, but the ride operator said they figured it would be OK due to the woman's size and because the restraint was far down enough to register on the control panel.
The same operator said there have been issues with the red train's control panel in the past, and that she or he had seen the trouble light on Esparza's car within a week of the accident. The operator also said once the train returned, she or he noticed the restraint was higher than when the train had been dispatched.
Several weeks after the accident, Arlington police received video from a teenager who rode in the car three the week before Esparza was killed.
The camera was placed in a storage pouch in front of the seat and showed two riders in the car. In the 16th second of the video, the report said police watching the footage heard a distinct "pop" and immediately after, the two riders are heard yelling for the operator to stop the ride.
While the video did not show if the restraint had moved, the report claims after the riders called out in the video, a loudspeaker on a ride announces, "Car three unlocked, car three and four are now unlocked. Recheck car three, recheck car four."
Esparza's family filed a lawsuit against Six Flags in September, the same week the ride reopened.
The family's suit said after the mother's death, inspections showed that various parts of the security systems on the ride were experiencing inconsistencies and intermittent failures. It alleges that Six Flags admitted after the inspections "they replaced a 'limit switch' for a restraint in a seat in the very car in which Rosa [Esparza] was riding because Six Flags found the switch to be defective."
The Esparza family's lawsuit, which accuses Six Flags of negligence, alleges that Six Flags has been reactive, not proactive in regard to safety systems and that caused Esparza's death. The Esparza family attorneys have requested a jury trial, and requested compensation of at least $1 million.
Six Flags has claimed it did not have any liability because they didn't design or build the cars used on the coaster, and said the Texas Giant got a green light to resume operations in September from the Texas Department of Insurance after extensive testing.
"The Texas Giant re-opened in September after external and internal experts determined the coaster was safe to ride and that the accident was not caused by any mechanical failure," said Six Flags Over Texas President Steve Martindale in a statement released Thursday. "We added incremental and overlapping safety measures to the ride including re-designed lap-bar restraint pads and seat belts. We also added a test seat at the ride-line entrance so guests can determine if they properly fit in the restraint system."
"We continue to extend our deepest condolences to the Esparza family," Martindale said. "This was a tragic accident that deeply affected our employees, especially since safety is our highest priority and at the heart of everything we do."