Darien Lake Roller Coaster Accident Ride of SteelThere was sad news out of the Buffalo, New York area yesterday as an Iraq war veteran died while riding Darien Lake’s Ride of Steel roller coaster. Apparently, the man, Sgt. James Hackemer, was a double amputee as he lost both legs in a roadside bombing in Iraq.

Ride of Steel (formerly Superman – Ride of Steel) is nearly identical to Six Flags America’s Superman – Ride of Steel. It’s a twenty story tall steel hyper coaster with several large hills, turns, and a top speed of 73 mph.

So far it’s not 100% certain whether the fact that he didn’t have legs was the cause for the accident. ThemeParkReview posted an image of Ride of Steel’s ride sign with safety warnings from 2008. It includes: “guests must have two legs” in the Ride Rules.

Here’s an official statement from Darien Lake:

“An adult male guest came out of the Ride of Steel roller coaster and we are saddened to report that the guest has passed away. We are currently investigating the situation with our safety experts and local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers, of course, are with the friends and family of the victim,” said Darien Lake spokeswoman Linda Taylor.

Here’s a video from Buffalo’s WIVB 4 with the story:

Read the full story at:WIVB.com “Iraq war veteran dies after falling off Ride of Steel at Darien Lake”

Like other roller coaster accidents I would imagine that guests can expect the ride to remain closed until the investigation is complete. WIVB reported that Darien Lake will be open as usual.

I have the utmost respect and admiration for all of our service men and women. Their sacrifices make our daily lives possible. Needless to say, this is a tragedy and something that can hopefully help parks learn more about securing handicapped or amputee riders IF that was the cause of the accident.

UPDATE 7/10 – In a New York Post article Hackemer’s 19 year old nephew shares his account of the accident as he lifted Hackemer into the ride and rode with him. According to the nephew Hackemer asked guest services which rides were okay for him and they replied that he could ride them all. The nephew also told the paper that he fell from the ride on one of the small hills after the helix. These are the hills with the stronger airtime on the trip back towards the station.

What’s Your Take?
Share your thoughts on this sad news by leaving a comment below.

About The Author

Founder of CoasterCritic.com. My favorite coasters are B&M hypers and gigas. I'm also a huge fan of terrain roller coasters.

26 Responses

  1. Matt

    I read this story this morning on MSN.com. It was shocking, but not so much now that I know what the sign said. As the ride sign says riders must have two legs to ride and no artificial limbs. The staff of Darien Lake should read and memorize the ride rules and procedures before operating the ride. Didn't they even think "well here is a guy without legs maybe he shouldn't be on the ride." However, it might have been out of respect for the veteran as I couldn't imagine telling a war veteran that he can't ride and should get off. Though if it was life or death then I would make the right decision and tell him to not ride.

    • Quil

      Yeah, I think this was an operator error more than anything else. It's a real shame.

      • Piedude81

        It truly is. These operators made an awfully stupid decision, and should be fired immediately. This man was trying to have fun, and an operating issue cost this tremendously couragous man lose his life. Our prairs our with his family.

  2. jman

    Whoa whoa wait a minute if the sign said you must read the sign and obey all the guidelines and conditions if I go to a ride and I am unable to ride because of the conditions but I ride it anyways that would make me responsible for that and I think that the ride operators are probably scarred by this event so before you begin pointing fingers just think about the workers there it may have been any number of reasons but this is why I don't do rollercoasters if god wanted me to fly he would have given me wings and also not vertigo people need to start thinking now if you get angry at me this is only my observation you can call me wrong just keep it respectable and clean please thank you very much

  3. The Coaster Critic

    Don't worry jman I don't allow personal attacks on the site. According to that update I just posted, it sounds like he asked which rides were safe for him and was told he could ride this roller coaster.

  4. CFC

    Man, the ride ops are idiotic. If the ride rules say "Guests must have 2 legs", why on earth would they let a legless rider on? These guys need to get the boot.

      • Piedude81

        I agree, but I doubt the ride ops will serve time. But, they might find themselves with a hefty fine…

  5. Mindy

    I am sure that the crew could care less if they lost their 8.00hr job. They are usually kids out of school for the summer. People need to be responsible for themselves. If I have special conditions; I will only plan to look out for myself.

  6. CoasterDude

    Here, I think the design of Ride of Steel had a factor in the accident. For those who have ridden it, it's twin at Six Flags America, or many other similar Intamin coasters, the ride only has a lapbar restraint. I imagine without legs, that significantly lowers your safety in riding the ride. This accident would not have happened on a coaster with OTSRs, but since Ride of Steel has no need for them, the design of the ride provides a reason for this misfortune, NOT the blame. I place the blame on the park employees for not taking the safety of the passengers seriously enough.

    • Jessica Lynn

      Agreed. I firmly believe every roller coaster, no matter how large or small, fast or slow, upside down or ride side up, should have OTSR's. To me it is only common sense, Costly or not, it should be the standard.

      • Quil

        I'm sorry Jessica, but shoulder harnesses are uncomfortable, view blocking, and can cause some serious headbanging.

    • DAC

      They also have lap belts that were mandated by NYS after the 300lb man was thrown from the ride back in 1999/2000.

  7. L

    This is the second time that someone has ffallen out at nearly the same point. I was there at the park the first ttime years ago. Maybe its the ride just saying

  8. Sara

    Who really knows what Guest Services may have said to him. They might have said NO, but the man decided to do it anyway. None the less, he shouldnt have been allowed on the ride, and his nephew who rode with him, should have known better as well.

    There is a lot of speculation with this tragedy. Some posts Ive read are that he may have known the risks of going on this ride, but just couldnt deal with the depression he suffered from being in Iraq, and loosing his legs.

    My thoughts go out to his family!

  9. MDC

    The ride ops are the last line of defense in issues like this, and despite being BOTH park policy and Intamin policy to only let guests with 2 legs ride, it is common sense (something which is sadly anything but common) that a lap bar can't restrain someone with no lap.

  10. L.J.

    Oh this is such a tradgedy. I dont know the whole story so I cant accurately put the blame on one person in particular, but I will go out on a limb and say its both an operator and rider error. There are always signs notifying riders that if they have back pain, recent surgery, ect… that they should not ride. The war veteran should have read that first. Buuut the operators, when strapping him in, should have realized he didnt have two legs, and reffered him to the riding rules and escorte him off the ride. Whoever is at fault, prayers to the family.

  11. Monica

    Wowwww….!!!:( i feel really bad. But at the same time one there are rules you have to follow! second and handycapp people really should be allowed on those roller coasters.. and third the people that let him on that should be fired. I just went to Darien lake last month for the school and it broke down with kids on it they should just take the ride down cuz obvesiously it is just having to much camosion on it my opition just sayinggg ..:( 😕

    • MDC

      They should NOT take the ride down. It is a perfectly safe ride (this incident was the result of human error), and it is fairly reliable. In fact, to take the ride down would not only cost a fortune, but would also bankrupt the park, because it would no longer have its most popular attraction. Sorry for my rant, but taking the ride down is a terrible idea.

      • David Bobzin

        Question is : should I blame others for my own acts of stupidity ? I walked through the turn style of the ride. I did not have to. I knew I had my own limitations. I made a bad decision. Not anyone else. The ride did not malfunction. I am sure the ride operators did what they were instructed to do as with every other patron, I will side with that they were doing what they were told to do at their job. Physics were ignored on this high velocity ride. Park regulations need to be debated and safety standards changed for certain rides. Guest services, at the gate, should have been aware that safety and physical aspects should have taken president. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure…..

        I watched this park grow from a camping resort, the dynamic opening of the "Viper", to the creation of the best coaster it had–"The Nightmare". I'm just so afraid that this fine amusement park will crumble along side other Upstate attractions, such as Olympic Park and Roseland Park . At least there's Seabreeze and Fantasy Island still left.

    • Mark

      I suggest submitting this entry to your school's English class. I'm not surprised by this accident, lots of carelessness on all sides.

  12. Leanne

    This is absolutely shocking. I feel so sorry for the guy. Survived the war but got taken anyway due to error. Whether that be Operator error, personal error or Ride error. Doesn't particually matter where the blame lies. It matters that this guy has lost his life while trying to make the most of his life!

    I do feel that the park should deal with the Operators who were there at the time, however. They clearly should of not allowed this man to ride! Although, this tragedy will stay with each of them forever! It is truely heartbreaking.

    May Heaven take good care of you Mr Hackemer.

  13. kim

    honestly, i feel the blame should be on the rider, as there are signs posted saying dont ride. i think the ops may have felt sorry for him and let him go on. even so, he should have known better. i am sorry he lost his life and his nephew had to witness it, but riders are responsible for themselves unless the ride had a malfunction.

  14. Jessica

    I find it disgusting an amusement park wouldn't enforce their own rules and let this person jeopardize his own safety.

  15. Savrina

    I live an hour from there, and it was determined by witnesses that he WAS stopped and WAS warned but insisted on going on the ride anyway. It even states in the pamphlets about any health problems including amputees. They apparently also attempted to sue Darin Lake (which was a fail on their part). Also, the reason it’s so identicle is because Darien Lake was previously property of Six Flags, and may I say, that since Six Flags sold it in ’07, (IMO) the place sucks now.


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