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.
ZiffLaw Attorney, Esq.
NY and PA Injury and Accident Attorney
The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY 14901