In the wake of the fatal accident at Six Flags Over Texas mid-July, media have reported an incomplete snapshot of “megacoaster” Texas Giant’s safety history. Data released to MuckRock show a fraught record since the ride’s 1990 grand opening, as well as a $10 million overhaul that changed the coaster from wood to steel in 2011.
A number of media reports covering Rosy Esparza’s fatal fall on July 19 have examined the The Texas Giant’s safety record over the past five years. These reports separately note the coaster’s 14 reported injuries since 2008 and its massive renovation completed in 2011. Many have failed to distinguish whether these injuries took place before or after the remodel, which transformed a once wooden roller coaster into its current steel structure.
The Texas Giant’s fourteen-story climb and initial drop at 60 miles per hour made the roller coaster highly anticipated when unveiled in 1990. For its first few years, the original Texas Giant was ranked among the best coasters in the world by industry magazines, including the top world ranking for wooden roller coasters from Amusement Today in 1998 and 1999. But over time, the coaster’s lumber warped, and Six Flags closed the ride for a makeover in 2009.
“This would be the largest ride renovation in the history of the company,” Six Flags over Texas CEO Mark Shapiro said at the time. “New trains, a more comfortable ride, a faster ride with additional features all with the intention of restoring this famed coaster to world class status.”
So ends the tale of the original Texas Giant: the multi-million dollar renovations completely transformed the ride. Rechristened “The New Texas Giant,” the coaster reopened in 2010 with a smoother steel track system, higher initial incline and steeper first drop, plus three new tunnels and a fire-spitting finale. The refashioned coaster debuted in the top 10 of Amusement Today’s global rankings, and also won the magazine’s billing as best new coaster of 2011.
Of the 14 injuries reported between 2008 and 2013, five injuries occurred on the New Texas Giant. The nine remaining injuries are a part of the ride’s much longer injury history from before its renovation.
But since the Texas Department of Insurance kept the same name and serial number for the coaster in its injury report database, its pre- and post-overhaul injury data has been lumped into one track record.
From 1991 to 2009, the original Texas Giant reported 94 injuries to the Texas Department of Insurance, more than any other single ride in the state database over that 19-year span.
The number of injuries per year on the Texas Giant ride, on the queue and unknown due to lack of information. Note the blank in 2010 reflects the year the roller coaster underwent construction.
Reported injuries on the Texas Giant from 1991 to 2009 include concussions, fractures, dislocations, lacerations, contusions, sprains, strains and one seizure in riders six to 64 years old.
According to the data, visitors complained that the Texas Giant jolted riders into one another, fractured ribs and strained necks. But a number of reports stemmed back to the ride’s queue: three riders reported head injuries from slipping or tripping at the coaster’s entrance and exit, and four more suffered ankle sprains on the way into or out of the ride.
Since the park reopened in 2011, the New Texas Giant’s five reported injuries include three slips or falls on the queue, a contusion during the ride and last month’s fatality.
Six Flags over Texas has yet to reopen the coaster or release any comment regarding what went wrong in July.