Woman questioned safety of ride days before fatal fall

March 22, 2011 9:29:46 AM PDT
As investigators look into what went wrong with a ride at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo that caused a rider to fall nearly 30 feet to his death, we've learned that a mother complanied about the very same ride, just four days before the deadly accident. Myra Rock thought she told the appropriate person about her concern, but the Rodeo has no record of her complaint. The roller coaster in question, the Hi-Miler, has a good track record, only a few minor injuries in its 31-year history. But that changed over the weekend.

It wasn't the kind of thrill she was hoping for when she and her 6-year-old son climbed aboard the Hi-Miler last week.

"Really, I didn't know what was going to happen," she said.

Just a short time after taking off she says the safety bar malfunctioned and the fun was over.

"Every time we went down in a dip, it came up and I had to pull it back down and hold my son tighter," said Rock.

It is the same ride from which 47-year-old Brian Greenhouse fell nearly 30 feet to his death Sunday night. He hit a man below who broke his ankle from the impact.

The Hi-Miler and all the other carnival rides are inspected daily by both independent consultants hired by the rodeo as well as RCS, the company that owns and operates them. Right now, everyone is baffled by how this could have happened.

"This car was looked at from top to bottom. The restraint was still down," said HLSR Chief Operating Officer Leroy Shafer. "The lap strap was still down, the bar was still down."

Rock isn't surprised.

"It could have been us easily," she said.

She says she did report the failure to the ride operator, but felt dismissed.

"Before I could even explain what was wrong -- he said, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know,'" said Rock.

On Monday as crews were tearing down the rides her children enjoyed just last week, she made a tough call.

"I'm not going back," she said.

Houston police officers are investigating whether the death was an accident or possibly criminal.

Eyewitness News learned another woman filed an official complaint with the Rodeo last Thursday, saying the ride needs a shoulder harness, but officials say it's not the kind of ride that requires one.