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A $1.8 million settlement was approved Wednesday for the...

By
TIM BRYANT

ST. LOUIS -- A $1.8 million settlement was approved Wednesday for the family of a woman killed two years ago in a roller coaster accident at Six Flags Over Mid-America.

Stella Holcomb, died July 7, 1984, when she was thrown out of the last car of the Rail Blazer, a stand-up roller coaster. The ride, new that year, reopened a month after the accident but was dismantled before the next spring.

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No cause of the accident ever was pinpointed, but an engineering consultant suggested Holcomb, 45, of Indianapolis was too large to be securely fastened in the ride. An autopsy report estimated her height at 5 feet 7 and her weight at 260 pounds.

Holcomb's relatives -- including her husband, Carl -- sued Six Flags and the maker of the Rail Blazer for $6 million. Their suit contended the amusement park in suburban Eureka and Arrow Huss Inc. of Clearfield, Utah, were negligent in the operation and design of the ride.

Under terms of the settlement, both lump sum payments and monthly payments were split among Holcomb's survivors.

Six Flags officials modified the Rail Blazer's harness system before the ride was reopened. When announcing early last year that the Rail Blazer would be dismantled, amusement park officials said the ride failed to catch on with the public.

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David Peters, the head of the mechancial engineering department at Washington University, said in a report that 'an unusual combination of factors' could have led to the accident.

Peters said ride loaders, perhaps to avoid causing Holcomb discomfort, may not have harnessed her in as tightly as they might have smaller passengers. He said that possibility, coupled with the force of the ride at the accident point, could have caused her to be thrown from the ride.

Holcomb fell out of the ride at a point where the six-car train made an abrupt dip and turn. Her death was the fourth at Six Flags since it opened in 1971.

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