War Veteran Dies After Falling Out of Ride at Darien Lake

9:44 PM, Jul 9, 2011   |    comments
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  • Army Sgt. James Hackemer

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- An Army war veteran, who survived a roadside bomb in Iraq three years ago, died Friday night when he fell out of a roller coaster at Darien Lake.

According to park officials, 29-year-old Army Sgt. James Thomas Hackemer "came out" of the Ride of Steel ride and "passed away".

The incident happened at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

Investigators say Hackemer was a passenger in the front seat of the ride. The inital investigation indicates both restraints were properly working.  Officials say he fell out at a "low hill" in the ride.

Hackemer is a Gowanda resident who was visiting the park with his sister and his children.  However, officials say the children were not on the ride with him.

Witnesses say it took some time to get him situated and secured in the front seat of the rollercoaster. Investigators say the lap bar and seat belt were functioning properly before, during and after the accident.

Hackemer lost both his legs and suffered a brain injury when the vehicle he was in hit a roadside bomb in 2008.

Darien Lake Safety experts and Genesee County Sheriff's Department are continuing their investigation. The ride will remain closed until the New York State Department of Labor determines it fit to be reopen.

Darien Lake has released the following statement Saturday:

"July 9, 2011 - Darien Lake Theme Park Resort is truly saddened by the incident that occurred yesterday on Ride of Steel.  The park is working closely with state and local authorities and expects to provide further information, in partnership with appropriate agencies, once the investigation has been completed.  There is no way to predict how long the process will take but the family, our guests, and our team members can be confident that it is being undertaken with all due diligence.

"On behalf of Darien Lake, I wish to express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of U.S. Army veteran James Thomas Hackemer," said Darien Lake Theme Park Resort General Manager Chris Thorpe.  "We are all brokenhearted by this tragic accident and will continue our support of both the family and the investigation."

Support is being provided internally to any team member impacted by the incident.  Guests who were at Darien Lake and witness to the incident on Ride of Steel are encouraged to contact the park to provide information or seek assistance by calling 585-599-5120 or emailing support@godarienlake.com.

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