Roller Coaster Death In Texas, Near Drownings in Ohio, Leave Questions About Safety In Amusement Parks

A Dallas woman was killed last week when she fell from the Texas Giant roller coaster.

A Dallas woman was killed last week when she fell from the Texas Giant roller coaster.

The recent death of a woman on a roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas has resurrected the debate over just how safe the rides are at amusement parks across the country.

In general, amusements parks are pretty darn safe, but when things go wrong – through inattentive workers, poor maintenance or poor design – the effects are devastating.

Coaster victim

Rosy Esparza.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Rosy Esparza of Dallas fell 75 feet to her death last Friday evening during the first minute of her ride on the Texas Giant coaster, in the ride’s initial descent. Police said she fell 75 feet from the third row of the coaster after the safety bar apparently released. A German maker of roller coasters will investigate the cause of the accident.

Also Friday at the Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, a water ride malfunctioned and trapped seven people, although no one was seriously injured. The water thrill ride slid down a ramp, flipped over and trapped some of the riders. Investigators want to know why some of the safety restraints released while others did not.

Both accidents serve as reminders of what can happen at amusement parks closer to home for Twin Tiers residents, such as Darien Lake Theme Park and Resort, which had a roller coaster fatality in 2011 involving an Army veteran who lost his legs in a bombing in Iraq. Park employees allowed the man to go on the ride without his prosthetic legs, violating the park’s policy. The park did not face criminal charges in the man’s death.

According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, safety is the top priority of park operators, citing:

  • Nearly 300 million people visit the approximately 400 amusement parks in the United States annually and take nearly 2 billion safe rides.
  • 61 of the 1,415 ride-related injuries reported in 2011, or less than 5 percent of all ride injuries, were considered serious, meaning they required some form of overnight treatment at a hospital.
  • The likelihood of being injured seriously enough to require overnight hospitalization for treatment is 1 in 24 million. The chance of being fatally injured is 1 in 750 million. (Based on an average of five rides per guest.)

If you’re heading to Darien Lake or another park this summer, read the association’s most recent ride injury survey (from 2011) on its website. There is good information there for anyone heading to an amusement park this summer.

Thanks for reading, and have a safe and fun time this summer!





Darien Lake Should Be Held Criminally Liable For Roller Coaster Death, says NY and PA Accident Lawyer

Going UP!

A sheriff's report blames Darien Lake in the death last week of an amputee on a roller coaster.

Darien Lake Theme Park and Resort violated its own internal policy in allowing an Army veteran who lost his legs in a bombing in Iraq on its Superman – Ride of Steel roller coaster, but the park will not face criminal charges in the man’s death.

James Hackemer was killed last week when he was thrown from the 208-foot-tall Ride of Steel roller coaster, and the investigators’ report puts the blame squarely on the popular theme park.

“The rules say you have to have two legs to ride,” Genesee County Sheriff Gary Maha said in a statement reported by The Associated Press. “They didn’t stop him or question him. They violated their own policy.

“Basically he did not have the body mass to keep him in his seat,” Maha added.

Hackemer, who had prosthetic legs, was not wearing them when a family member helped him get on the ride, Maha said.

Maha said operators at the park did not try to stop Hackemer from getting on the ride, but he said there was no reckless behavior or criminal negligence on the part of the attendants.

“There is no criminal liability associated with this incident,” Maha said, calling the death an “unfortunate accident.”

During the weekend, Hackemer’s sister said the family does not blame Darien Lake. “We in no shape or form hold Darien Lake accountable,” Jody Hackemer told The Buffalo News.

In our initial post on this horrible tragedy, I said I respectfully disagree with the family.

Attendants should not have let Mr. Hackemer on a ride that was clearly not safe for him, and Darien Lake is obligated to protect people from dangerous situations in the park.

They knew better than Mr. Hackemer whether the ride was safe. Two other roller coasters in the park did not allow riders without legs. Why did this one?

I also disagree with the Sheriff – Darien Lake failed to follow their OWN policies designed to prevent exactly this situation.  They knew death was the likely result of such a failure.  When Darien Lake employees failed to stop Mr. Hackemer from getting on that roller coaster they knew or should have known he would be killed.

Darien Lake’s actions meet the definition for criminal negligence, and they should be held responsible for Mr. Hackemer’s death.  Letting him get on that roller coaster was no different than putting a gun to his head, and the result is the same.



From Buffalo’s WIVB:

Thanks for reading,

Adam M. Gee, Esq.
NY and PA Injury and Accident Attorney
The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY  14901
Phone: (607)733-8866
Fax: (607)732-6062
Email: [email protected]