At roughly the 54-second mark of this 2011 video, Six Flags' Texas Giant roller coaster reaches the apex of that first climb. Then, it descends at a 79-degree angle -- almost straight down -- for nearly 150 feet. At around 7 p.m. Friday, during this stomach-churning descent, 52-year-old Rosa Irene Ayala-Gaona was ejected from the third car, according to the inquest conducted by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office.
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She fell for 75 feet before striking a metal support beam, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Her body finally came to rest on the roof of a tunnel. Ayala-Gaona died of "multiple traumatic injuries."
At least one witness described her as "frantic" when the coaster was preparing to disembark. She believed her safety bar hadn't been properly secured. It didn't "click" as many times as the others when it was locked in place, a witness said. That could mean mechanical malfunction or error on the part of Six Flags employees.
But because there is no state agency charged with investigating amusement park accidents, Six Flags Over Texas will be conducting the inquiry itself. And because a lawsuit is all but guaranteed, who knows when the results of the investigation will be released? U.S. Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, pushed a bill in 2011 to restore jurisdiction over amusement parks to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, but it died in committee. He's calling on Congress again to provide better oversight.
None of which is likely to satisfy Ayala-Gaona's family, or the thousands of Six Flags patrons who'll almost certainly think twice before setting foot on another roller coaster.