An Iraq War veteran who lost both legs and a hip to a roadside bomb south of Baghdad was killed when he fell from the Ride of Steel roller coaster at the Darien Lake Theme Park Resort recently. According to reports from BuffaloNews.com and NBC affiliate WGRZ News 2, Sergeant James Hackemer was thrown from the ride near its highest point, 208 feet in the air.
The New York State Department of Labor recently indicated that safety and operational requirements were not followed by the ride operators. The rules were posted and visible at the entrance to the Ride of Steel. These rules require that riders have both legs, because the safety devices restrain the legs, shins, and lap to hold the rider safely in the ride's car. Reports indicate that Sergeant Hackemer was not wearing his prosthetics when he was helped onto the ride.
After investigating the accident, the Department of Labor determined that all rider restraints were functioning properly. However, the restraints were essentially ineffective for someone without legs, and that such riders are prohibited from boarding the Ride of Steel. The Department issued two violations because the ride operators were not properly trained on safety operations and rider restrictions.
While the Park will not see any monetary sanctions or penalties from the State of New York, Sergeant Hackemer's family has initiated a wrongful death lawsuit. They claim that the ride operators were negligent in allowing him to board the roller coaster without his prosthetic legs, and that such reckless disregard for his safety ultimately lead to his death.
(New York wrongful death attorneys indicate that, in a nutshell, negligence is a party's failure to take reasonable care to avoid causing harm or injury to another.)
This was the second death suffered on the Ride of Steel. In 1999, a man suffered multiple rib fractures and later died after riding the coaster, named "Superman" at the time.