There 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:
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.
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