Family glad Six Flags suit is settled

Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TX) - Saturday, February 23, 2002
Author: SEAN WOOD, Star-Telegram Staff Writer
The father of a woman killed at Six Flags Over Texas three years ago said he and his
wife are ready to move on and focus on their granddaughter after settlement of their
lawsuit against Six Flags Inc.

Jerry Cartwright, his wife, Vallie, and their 7-year-old granddaughter, Dana Blunt, all of West Helena, Ark., will get $4 million from the amusement park company. A little over $2.4 million - minus attorneys fees and court costs - will go to Dana, whose mother, Valeria Cartwright, was killed on the Roaring Rapids ride in 1999.

Dana's money is going into three annuities with an eventual payout over her lifetime that could be as much as $16 million. Jerry Cartwright and his wife will each get $750,000, and their daughter's estate will get $75,000.

"Our interests are with our grandbaby," Jerry Cartwright said Friday after the settlement hearing. "She comes first. She is the one with the biggest loss. She lost her mother."

Cartwright said the loss of his daughter is hard to overcome. "You haven't lost anything until you've lost a child," he said. "I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy."

The settlement concludes the family's claim against Six Flags Inc. and its Arlington park. But it still has a suit pending against Canyon Manufacturing Co., which made parts of the ride involved in the accident. The family is being joined in the suit against Canyon by Six Flags Inc. The tentative trial date is July 15.

Six Flags says the accident was caused by faulty air bladders made by Canyon. The bladders are like large air-filled pillows that give buoyancy to the rafts that carry passengers on the Roaring Rapids ride. The ride, which is still operating, carries 12 passengers on a trip down a simulated white-water river.

One of the Cartwright's attorneys, Willie Gary, on Friday absolved Six Flags of blame in the accident and laid the fault on Canyon. A representative from Canyon's law firm was at Friday's hearing but declined to comment. Officials with Canyon could not be reached for comment.

Dwain Dent, a Fort Worth attorney who represented the Cartwrights at Friday's hearing, said cases like this take a long time to resolve.

Testimony during a civil trial last month showed that the teens were served five rounds of drinks, some with large amounts of liquor, said Dwain Dent of Fort Worth, Hester's attorney. Robison's blood-alcohol level was almost twice the legal limit of 0.08, his mother said.

"When you're looking at a complex case that involves a mom's death at the hands of a corporate defender that has many faces, then it takes longer to get at the true facts of who is responsible for the death," Dent said.

Six Flags' attorney, Don Flanary, said witnesses, including those suing the park for injuries resulting from that accident, said they remember hearing a popping noise before the accident. Flanary said that popping was the bladders bursting and that they burst because they were faulty.