Thursday, July 25, 2013


Six Flags exec linked to firm that inspected coaster.

A Six Flags executive started the firm that inspected the roller coaster from which a woman fell to her death. He gave up ownership of the firm when he joined Six Flags.

Six flags death roller coaster inspection: Entrance to Six Flags over Texas in Arlington, Texas
Girls walk past the entrance of the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park in Arlington, Texas, on July 23, 2013. The roller coaster from which a woman fell to her death received its last annual inspection from a firm started by a Six Flags executive.
The Texas roller coaster from which a woman fell to her death last week received its last annual inspection from a firm started by an executive at Six Flags, which owns the Six Flags Over Texas park where the Texas Giant coaster operates.

Patrick Hoffman, listed on Linkedin as a vice president at Six Flags, is in charge of safety and risk management at the chain, the Dallas Morning News reports. Six Flags spokeswoman Sharon Parker told the paper he had divested 100 percent of his ownership in PLH & Associates, the inspection firm he founded in 1985, before coming to work for the company.

The Lundy Group, which now operates PLH, “performs work for Six Flags and many other theme park companies, but is not involved in the Texas Giant ride accident investigation,” Parker told the paper. It was responsible for inspecting the ride before last Friday’s tragedy. There have been no accusations of wrongdoing against PLH for its inspection.

Six Flags’ exact role in hiring PLH was “not immediately clear,” the Morning News reported. “A safety services company based in a home in Maryland was hired by The Hartford insurance company to provide inspection services. That company then outsourced the inspection work to PLH, according to state records.”

The last inspection took place in February, the Morning News reports. It said “it wasn’t clear how much work PLH does for Six Flags or how long it has been inspecting rides.”

Hoffman did not immediately respond to a voice mail from MSN News seeking comment on how PLH landed the inspection contract.

Hoffman and PLH investigated the park’s only other death, in 1999, before he went to work for Six Flags, the Morning News reports.

Six Flags roller coaster death: The Texas Giant roller coaster
The Texas Giant roller coaster ride at the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park in Arlington, Texas. A woman plunged to her death from the ride on July 19, 2013.
While PLH is not involved in the investigation into the fall that killed Rosy Esparza of Dallas, other stakeholders are. Six Flags itself is leading the investigation, in the absence of a state-run regulator. “Those determining the cause [of the fall] will likely be Six Flags staff, its insurance company, an inspector hired by the park or insurance company, and the German firm that manufactured the cars,” the Morning News reported previously.

The Texas Department of Insurance, which makes sure rides have insurance and are inspected, has required the park to perform a new safety inspection before the ride can reopen. But it won’t involve itself in the investigation because there’s no question of the park’s insurance and inspection record. Six Flags carries a liability insurance policy for the ride 100 times that required by law. Police likely won’t investigate because there’s no suspicion of a crime.

Since 2008, Six Flags has reported 14 injuries involving the Texas Giant to the state insurance department, the Washington Post reports. Three of those injuries happened before or after the ride, such as riders tripping on the ride’s steps. It’s unclear how many others required medical attention and therefore would have forced the ride to be shut down.

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