GOWANDA, NY - One day after a tragic accident at the Darien Lake Theme Park took the life of Iraq war veteran James Hackemer, his sisters talked to Channel 2 News about their baby brother. The say he just wanted to live his life as normal as anyone else.
It was supposed to be a fun time at the Darien Lake Theme Park for James Hackemer, his sisters, nieces and nephews Friday night.
Just after they all arrived at the Park, James lost his life in a horrific accident while riding the "Ride of Steel" roller coaster.
His sisters Catie Marks, Jody Hackemer, Roxanne Luffred, and Paula Norley talked to us about when they first heard about the accident.
"We figured it was because of getting on or off the ride," said Roxanne.
Her sister Jody added, "That's what I thought trying to get on, he fell."
Roxanne then added, "Absolutely not anything to this magnitude."
In 2008 while serving a tour of duty in Iraq James survived a road side bomb attack. He lost both his legs. Since then he was getting around on prosthetic legs. At the park, Jody tells us James was not about to let that hold him back from the thrill ride.
"That was his intent was to get on that 'Superman.' Like I said James is next to impossible to say no to," said Hackemer.
Roxanne went to tell us, "He didn't have his prosthetic legs at the time. The ride was almost over. They were probably just seconds from pulling into the station. So he did make it through almost the entire ride."
And that's when the tragedy hit.
"He fell forward, and he was in the first car," said the eldest sister.
His sisters say although their brother died tragically the most comforting thing for them is that he died happy. Jody Hackemer took the opportunity to elaborate.
"That minute, or minute and a half however long he was on that ride had to be the happiest moments in his life because that what he lived for. He, I would say he probably felt the most normal during that minute, minute and a half than he has in the last 3 1/2 years," said Hackemer.
"My friend said he died a Superman," said Roxanne.
James Hackemer leaves behind 2 young daughters, another brother, and his parents. His family plans to hold a wake for him on Tuesday followed by a Memorial Service on Wednesday. James did wish to be buried at Arlington Nation Cemetery in Washington, DC.
War Veteran Dies After Falling From Ride at Darien Lake