Coaster Where Vet Died Shut Down for Rest of Season

Thursday, Aug 18, 2011  |  Updated 2:27 PM EDT
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The Ride of Steel roller coaster is shown at Darien Lake Theme Park Resort in Darien, N.Y.

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The roller coaster from which a double-amputee Iraq war veteran was thrown to his death last month will remain shut down for the rest of the season, a western New York amusement park official said Thursday.

Christopher Thorpe, general manager of the Darien Lake Theme Park Resort, said in a statement on the park's website that the Ride of Steel is closed for the rest of 2011 because of repairs requiring customized parts.

The ride was closed for two weeks after James Hackemer died July 8. The 29-year-old father of two had lost both his legs to a roadside bomb in 2008. The ride reopened but was shut down again last week when a chain snapped, stranding 32 passengers on a hill.

The park operates on weekends after Labor Day through Oct. 9.

A state Labor Department investigation determined that operator error was to blame for the accident. Investigators said park workers did not follow rules posted at the ride's entrance, which require that riders have both legs. A seatbelt and metal bar restrain riders by the legs, shins and lap.

The labor department, which has regulatory authority over amusement park rides, said it issued two violations to Darien Lake: One for not properly training the ride's operators on the safety and operations restrictions and the second because operators were unfamiliar with the coaster's safety requirements. No fines or penalties accompanied the violations.

A wrongful death suit filed by Hackemer's family against the amusement park is pending. His funeral was Monday at Arlington National Cemetery.

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