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Sergeant James Hackemer

The victim in a horrific Friday afternoon accident at Darien Lake Theme Park was reportedly an Iraq veteran who had lost both of his legs in the war.

According to Genesee County Sheriff's Sergeant Greg Walker, 29-year-old James Hackemer (above) of Gowanda was a passenger on "The Ride of Steel," formerly "Superman: Ride of Steel," at Darien Lake Theme Park Friday afternoon. He was sitting in the very front seat of the first car on the ride. At about 5:30pm, Hackemer was ejected from the rollercoaster on a hill. The rollercoaster was traveling approximately 50mph at the time of the incident. Hackemer fell an unknown distance and sustained fatal injuries upon impact.

Hackemer had undergone amputations to each of his legs following his service in Iraq: one just above the knee, and the other at his hip. At the time of Friday's accident, he was not wearing prosthetic legs.

"The Ride of Steel" is outfitted with two types of restraints in each seat: a lap bar, and a lap-only seatbelt. There is no shoulder harness and no other type of bodily restraint built into the ride. Sergeant Walker would not comment on whether the types of restraints, combined with Hackemer's amputations, had led to the ride accident.

Deputies Friday evening said that Hackemer was attending the park with his children and several sisters. He was sitting with one of those family members in the front of the ride when he was ejected. The other family member was not injured, nor were any of the other riders on "The Ride of Steel." The ride was immediately shut down and will remain so for an undisclosed amount of time.

Park officials did not comment this evening, and referred nearly all questions to the Sheriff's Office representatives. They say more information will be available from the Park within the next few days. Darien Lake Theme Park remains open on its regular schedule.

BELOW: Raw video from the news conference at Darien Lake Friday evening

PHOTO: Retrieved from a
memorial Facebook page set-up to honor Hackemer

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# Geoff Redick
Saturday, July 09, 2011 10:00 AM
*This comment from "Sam" has been edited for profanity.
why the **** would the idiots workin there let him on if there are no arm restraints??? ****** could have been prevented no offense to the vet i know u should be treated equal and thnks for what u have done but it should not have happened like this!!!!!
# Geoff Redick
Saturday, July 09, 2011 10:04 AM
*This comment from "michelle" was posted on an older story.
who let's a man with no legs on a roller coaster? C'mon
# Geoff Redick
Saturday, July 09, 2011 10:04 AM
*This comment from "Steve" was posted on an older story
Are you kidding me?! They let a double leg amputee on that ride?! No wonder he flew out! Come on people get some common sense!!!!!!!!
# Chris Spence
Saturday, July 09, 2011 1:08 PM
The park should have a policy regarding which rides are safe for those with disabilities or amputations. And if they don't, I'll bet they will now. This was a preventable accident.
# sharon
Saturday, July 09, 2011 3:57 PM
No way, No how should he had been on that ride!!
# MArk
Saturday, July 09, 2011 4:09 PM
I kinda had to laugh at this, as this 29 yr old didn't think it was unsafe?? I don't even like going on rides without shoulder covers.. this only had waist covers what was he thinking? I also think the park employees are just teenagers with no clue, or didn't think twice of the outcome of it.. Well I am sure the family now will sue the park for everyone's stupidity.. Silly americans.
# matt
Saturday, July 09, 2011 5:58 PM
i was on that ride on the 4th of july it has shoulder and lap restrints could he have fallen out???
# Geoff Redick
Saturday, July 09, 2011 6:25 PM

There are no shoulder restraints on "The Ride of Steel." The Sheriff's Department confirmed that there is only a lab bar, and lap belt on the ride.
# Davon
Sunday, July 10, 2011 12:48 AM
What made him think that a ride with waist and lap restraints would keep him safe with a half of leg and one hip. Enough is enough with handicap equal rights! They already get the good parking spots and get to skip the line for the rides. I was there he didnt meet the height requirement anyway. This was a senseless death and a group of bad decisions on part of the park employees and the rider. Im sorry for the family but this will be on tosh 2.0 next week. I cant feel sorry for the guy who plays russian roulette.
# Matt
Monday, July 11, 2011 12:13 AM
They got sued a few years ago for not letting a disabled person on the ride, he should haven't been on that ride. the seatbelt and stomach restraint help but your lower body is what keeps you in place on those rides. I mean to disprect to the gentleman at all but he had no lower body.
# TK
Monday, July 11, 2011 10:02 AM
Why does everybody always feel an intense need to pass judgment? Can't you just accept that this is a tragedy, that you do not and will likely NEVER have all the facts, and move on? Who cares who's fault it is? Mind your own business, people!
# KO
Monday, July 11, 2011 1:37 PM
TK: It is important to analyze the tragedy to prevent it from happening, again. And the facts are 1) a disabled person without any lower body was on a ride that requires lower body strength to keep from being ejected from the ride; 2) the person would NOT have met the minimum height requirement; 3) (a prelude: I've never been to Darien Lake or seen this ride) the ride may not have sufficient safety restraints to keep passengers from getting injured.

Davon: Really? Your beef is that those with PHYSICAL disablities get the good parking spot and get to go to the front of the line? Seriously? I stressed the word "physical" because there are many types of disabilities. People with disabilities should be afforded the same rights as every other person and we should ensure that every accommodation is made to ensure those rights are met, including ease of access.

The reality is that both the rider AND the park are responsible. The rider erred in his judgment to go on the ride without having the physical ability to ensure his own safety and the park is responsible for allowing him on the ride without having the necessary restraints in place to ensure someone with a disability would be safe. The reality also is that if the park had denied him, there would have been a different kind of lawsuit.

My thoughts, at any rate.
# LK
Friday, August 12, 2011 1:40 PM
Wow how crazy. Everyone spends time "covering" their preverbial butt with who gets what rights. This was just a VERY stupid mistake by a few stupid people. Way to go Darwin! Go ahead - be insulted but i am sure many agree

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