BUFFALO, NY - Police have determined the Ride of Steel rollercoaster at Darien Lake Theme Park Resort, from which a legless Iraq war veteran was fatally thrown on July 10, was functioning properly.
But since that incident 2 On Your Side has tried, without success, to obtain inspection records for other rides for anyone who might be concerned with the safety of those.
The New York State Department of Labor enforces amusement ride safety throughout the state, except in New York City. Labor Department employees inspect all rides at stationary amusement parks at least once a year, and rides at traveling fairs or carnivals are inspected every time the ride is set up in a new location. A ride cannot be operated without a permit from the Department of Labor.
Following the fatal accident involving Sgt. James Hackemer, we asked the Department of Labor for their ride safety inspection records for Darien Lake.
It wouldn't release them, citing its ongoing investigation as a reason.
On Thursday the Department of Labor acknowledged they were in receipt of our subsequent request through the Freedom of Information Law to inspect the records.
On that same day, we also took our concerns to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"We're in the middle of an investigation because this was a serious accident, and we want to make sure we don't compromise the investigation," Cuomo told WGRZ-TV, regarding the Department of Labor's hesitancy in releasing the requested records.
But moreover, there's the issue of your ability to check for yourself on the ride safety reports for any amusement park or county fair--whether there's an ongoing investigation or not.
For while the Department of Labor has an entire website devoted to ride safety....nowhere on there will you see those ride inspection records.
Cuomo was asked by 2 On Your Side's Dave McKinley, "Would you support the creation of a web site, or perhaps direct the Department of Labor to create a data base, so that (amusement park riders) could go on line and check out that information for themselves?"
Cuomo replied, "It sounds like a good idea to me, I think it's something the Department of Labor should consider...let's get the facts, and then let's come up with any improvements we can to make sure people get the information."
NYS State Senator Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo) says he's willing to sponsor legislation aimed at easing public access to ride safety records, and we've already received an opinion from the Executive Director of the State Committee on Open Government, who believes those records should be made available whether there's an investigation or not.
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Bob Mancuso.
Click here to read Dave McKinley's latest blog.