An amputee Iraq war veteran fell off a roller coaster and to his untimely death at Darien Lake Theme Park in Syracuse, N.Y.
James Thomas Hackemer, a sergeant in the U.S. Army, was riding the Ride of Steel roller coaster in the front row when he fell off. The coaster was going 50 mph according to park officials. Hackemer lost his legs in the Iraq War when a roadside bomb hit his vehicle in March of 2008. He was treated with 18-months of rehabilitation and given new legs.
The ride and park are now under investigation from the New York State Department of Labor and the Genesee County Sheriff's Department. Initial reports indicate there was nothing wrong with the safety harness and restraints were working properly.
Investigators are attempting to determine if Hackemer's amputated state may have been a factor in the tragedy.
Ride of Steel has been operating since 1999. It has a 205 ft drop and goes up to speeds of 73 mph and is billed as one of the fastest, biggest coasters east of the Mississippi River.
This is the second accident associated with this coaster. Back in 1999 when it first opened, a 37-year-old man was ejected from the ride and nearly killed. After the accident, park officials changed the ride's restraint system and it was given larger and longer lap bars.
An adult male guest came out of the Ride of Steel roller coaster, and we are saddened to report that the guest has passed, a Darien Lake Theme Park spokesperson said in a statement. We are currently investigating the situation with our safety experts and local authorities.
Hackemer is survived by two kids, Addison, 3, and Kaelynn, 4. His children were at the park with him when the accident happened but were obviously not on the ride. He was on the ride with one of his nephews when it happened. His mother, Nancy Hackemer told The Buffalo News it helped a little that her son was happy when he died.
Following his accident in Iraq and subsequent recovery, Hackemer continued to stay active his mother said. He had his challenges, but his mother said he was so happy to be home following the war that he soaked up life.