Rollercoaster Death Caused by Amusement Park Employee Error: Report

New York investigators have determined that the death of a man who fell from a rollercoaster was caused by operator error and his family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the amusement park. 

On July 8, Sgt. James Hackemer, a double amputee with no legs, was allowed to ride the “Ride of Steel” roller coaster at Darien Lake amusement park in New York. During the ride, Hackemer was thrown from his seat, struck by the train, and fell to his death.

According to a New York Department of Labor report, the rollercoaster death occurred because of errors by the amusement park and it’s ride operator, who never should have allowed Hackemer on the roller coaster. Because he had no legs, Hackemer did not meet the minimum height requirements of the ride, inspectors investigating the amusement park accident determined.

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Ride operators also allowed his nephew to help strap him in, which was also against policy. Both signage at the handicap access entrance and a brochure distributed by customer services stated that passengers must have two legs to be able to ride the roller coaster.

According to the state report, Hackemer went to the park’s Guest Relations office before going on the rides to ask about handicap access policies. A park employee offered him a brochure for disabled guests, but Hackemer told the employee he already had one.

The state gave the amusement park two violations as a result of the accident. One was for failing to properly train operators on safety and operation restrictions for the Ride of Steel. The other was for having operators who were not familiar with the safety requirements operating the ride.

Hackemer, 29, was an Iraqi war veteran who lost both legs during the war to a roadside bomb. He was given a military burial in Arlington Cemetery.

A wrongful death lawsuit against the amusement park was filed by Hackemer’s family late last month in New York Supreme Court.

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