I was at the Texas Rangers baseball game last Friday night when the news began to spread: Someone had died on the Texas Giant, the Six Flags Over Texas roller coaster adjacent to the ballpark. By that night we knew that a woman had been killed. Now we know that her name was Rosa Ayala-Goana, and that she apparently came out of her seat at 6:30 PM and fell 14 stories to her death.
There’s much we don’t yet know. We don’t know if the retaining bar malfunctioned, or if the park employee didn’t secure her properly. She reportedly told the employee that she was worried about her security, but was assured that she was safe. Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, the German company that built the car from which she fell, has sent experts to Six Flags.
The Texas Giant is closed until the investigation is completed, which will take at least two more weeks. Meanwhile, on Monday a Southwest Airlines jet lost its front landing gear as it touched down at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Several passengers and flight attendants were injured.
According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, the chances of death on a roller coaster are one in 750 million. The odds of dying in an airplane crash are one in 29.4 million. By contrast, you have a one in 10,000 chance of dying from firearms and a 1.2 in 10,000 chance of being killed in a traffic accident. And the odds you’ll die at home are one in 7,875.
In other words, roller coasters and airplanes are about the safest places you can be. And yet a tragedy occurred on a roller coaster just a few hundred yards from where I was sitting, and a plane crashed three days later.
No place on earth is truly safe. When I was a pastor in Atlanta, Georgia, I heard about a man in our community who was diagnosed with brain cancer and given six months to live. He spent the time speaking to men’s groups in area churches, encouraging them to prepare for eternity. “I’ll not see you again in this life, but I hope to see you in heaven,” he would say. A man who heard him one Sunday was driving the next day on the freeway when a loose tire from the bed of a truck in front of him crashed into his windshield and killed him. The man with brain cancer attended his funeral.
Christianity Today editor Stan Guthrie has a new book, A Concise Guide to Bible Prophecy: 60 predictions everyone should know. Prediction #58: no one knows the day or the hour of Jesus’ return. He cites Matthew 24:36, where Jesus says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Guthrie notes: “The key question regarding the second coming is not when it will happen but what you will be doing when it does.”
What if it were today?