Death at Six Flags brings frightening memories for Arlington family

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on July 22, 2013 at 11:31 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 22 at 11:31 PM

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Runaway Mine Train is one of the tamest rides at Six Flags Over Texas, but tame turned terrifying one winter day.

Stephanie Hudson said before the ride moved away from the platform, she maintained that the restraint system was not locked.

"I showed the ride operator, I said, 'Look!' and I moved it, and she did nothing," Hudson said. "And then we were off!"

The Hudsons were celebrating son Scotty's birthday on January 6, the final day of Six Flags' Holiday in the Park celebration. Just as they were loading into the Runaway Mine Train, they said a fight broke out between two park visitors.

The ruckus caused a few workers to be distracted, the Hudsons said, and when they entered the ride, the bar that acts as a restraint across their waits never properly latched.

They maintain a worker on the ride did not check to see if the bar was secure, and did not stop the ride when the Hudsons pointed out the problem.

They said Scott had to hold onto his daughter with all his might to keep her from falling out on the ride's final drop.

"We ended up coming up all the way, bringing the bar up, we were basically against it," he said, "but I had a hold of her, so we didn't fly out the back."

When the ride ended, Stephanie Hudson immediately complained.

"I walked back to everybody about to get on, and I told them not to get on this ride," she said.

Six Flags immediately shut down the Runaway Mine Train ride and interviewed the family about what happened, but Stephanie was not done.

She sent an e-mail through the park's website, then printed the message and sent it via certified letter.

About two weeks later, she received e-mailed responses from Six Flags calling the incident "100 percent unacceptable." The park said it had removed the train, and promised to investigate.

"And we said to them, 'If we'd been on the Texas Giant, you'd be telling a different story,'" she said.

On Friday, a woman fell from the Texas Giant roller coaster and died. One witness said the victim, Rosy Esparza, had asked a worker if her restraint was in the proper place before the coaster ride began.

The news sent chills up the Hudsons' spines.

"It could've been us... could've been our kid," Stephanie Hudson said.

They received a response from Six Flags within two weeks, apologizing for what had happened to them.

In responding to Friday's accident, the park has said it would not be right to speculate on a cause. It has said it will conduct a thorough investigation.

While Texas law does require an outside agency to conduct inspections, the law does not provide a governing body that will conduct its own investigation into the incident, something that bothers the Hudsons.

"There seems like there should be more laws or regulations in place that wouldn't allow you to investigate yourself," Stephanie Hudson said. "As a teacher, if I get in trouble in the classroom, I'm not going to get the luxury of investigating myself."

Scott and his daughter were at the park the day before Esparza's death. Even though they are season pass holders, they've already decided the family is not returning to Six Flags Over Texas.

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