Darien Lake Roller Coaster Accident: Theme Park Violated Rule

4:14 PM, Jul 15, 2011   |    comments
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Video: Midday Report: Roller Coaster Accident Findings

  • Genesee County Sheriff Gary Maha

BATAVIA, N.Y. -Family and friends came together Thursday morning to honor the memory and service of an Iraq War veteran who died after falling from a roller coaster at Darien Lake.

Services for James Hackemer were held at the Assembly Church of God in Gowanda. The 29-year-old will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

Wednesday, the Genesee County Sheriff's Department said Darien Lake violated its own policy by letting an amputee onto the ride of steel last Friday.

Sheriff Maha addressed the media and said there is no criminal liability in the death of Iraq War veteran James Hackemer. The 29 year old double amputee died on Friday after falling out of the "Ride of Steel."

On Tuesday, Sheriff Maha explained that preliminary investigations showed there was no mechanical failure.

The investigation into the fatal accident found that the ride was in full compliance with having proper restraints and was in working order.

Sheriff Maha claims Hackemer should not have been allowed on the ride because Darien Lake's policy states that amputees should not be let on. There is even a sign in front of the ride stating the policy.

Hackemer lost both of his legs and a hip while serving in Iraq.

Sheriff Maha says ride attendants "offered no explanation" as to why they let the victim on the ride and that they can't "force them to talk". Maha says that after consulting with the district attorney, it was concluded no action or inaction on the part of any person rose to a criminal offense.

Sheriff Maha says the victim died of blunt force trauma after being ejected and hitting the front of the car, and bouncing on the track and then to the ground.

Following the news conference, Darien Lake released the following statement:

Darien Lake Theme Park Resort continues to mourn the loss of Sergeant James T. Hackemer and pray for him, his family and all those impacted by this accident.

The Genesee County Sheriff's Department has completed their own investigation, concluding that no criminal charges are to be brought.  Darien Lake Theme Park Resort, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Labor and other industry experts, continues its investigation which is expected to take more time to complete. 

"We take our responsibility very seriously," said Darien Lake Theme Park Resort General Manager Christopher Thorpe.  "We are not going to rush this process.  As soon as we have final information on any measures to be taken within the park, we will share those with the public."

"I wish to express my personal appreciation to the Genesee County Sheriff's Department for their quick response and thorough work," adds Thorpe. 

Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalists Terry Belke and Dave Harrington 





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