Welcome to Theme Park Insider! Join the community or log in
Theme Park Insider
Facebook Twitter Google Plus Email Newsletter

Man dies on Intamin mega coaster in New York

The man had ridden Ride of Steel at Darien Lake.

From Robert Niles
Posted July 8, 2011 at 6:01 PM
An unidentified man died on or after riding the Ride of Steel roller coaster at Darien Lake amusement park in New York today.

According to a news report, the incident happened at about 5:30pm Eastern time. There are no other details yet.

Ride of Steel, formerly known as Superman Ride of Steel, is an Intamin Mega Coaster with a 205-foot drop and a top speed of 73 miles per hour. It lost the Superman branding after the 2006 season, when the park was sold by Six Flags to PARC Management. PARC then sold the park to another company, which leased it back to PARC for management. Starting this season, the park is managed by Herschend Family Entertainment, the operators of Dollywood and three other parks around the country.


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted July 8, 2011 at 6:28 PM
I'm following this story on a couple of forums and sources. The first headline I saw said the man fell out of the ride. Next I saw he died after the ride. One source indicated the man was legless.

While I hate to see a tragedy like this happen, I always find it fascinating how the story changes at every turn as more details emerge. Thoughts and prayers to this gentleman and his family.

From KJ Simpson
Posted July 8, 2011 at 7:03 PM
This is my local park, so it's been all over the news here- as Mike said, with varying versions and degrees of information as the evening has progressed. All the local news sources now just have Darien Lake's official statement, which says a man "came out of" the ride, and has passed away.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted July 9, 2011 at 6:12 AM
So based on KJ's post above, "came out of the ride" could have two meanings.."exited" which would indicate he died AFTER the ride. Or it could mean he literally "came out" which would mean he was ejected from the train while in motion.

Unfortunately, I can only follow this story on-line. I live near New York City, but I doubt there'll be any coverage of this story in the NYC papers tomorrow.

*EDIT*..It takes a big man to admit when he's wrong, and at 235 lbs., I'm pretty big. Today's NY Daily News actually DID have a very amall article about this tragic occurence at Darien Lake. No new info, but I was surprised to see any coverage at all. Interestingly enough, it was not the only coaster-related item in this morning's paper. Five pages after the afore-mentioned article, there's a pic of the new (opened yesterday) TAKABISHA in Japan, now the steepest coaster in the world with a 121 degree first drop.

From Robert Niles
Posted July 8, 2011 at 9:56 PM
He was ejected from the ride.

From KJ Simpson
Posted July 9, 2011 at 5:14 AM
James Hackemer, 29, an Iraq War veteran, who was a double amputee- he lost both legs in a roadside bomb explosion. Here's some info from this morning's paper:
http://www.buffalonews.com/city/article482793.ece

From Carrie Hood
Posted July 9, 2011 at 5:17 AM
Apparently their is more to this story.. I found a news story online from a local news station. This should explain a bit more, it seems more like a park safety failure then a guest error.

http://www.9wsyr.com/mostpopular/story/Victim-of-fatal-roller-coaster-accident/jM-zd3jWt0yhuwkx4Y1i4A.cspx

From Robert Niles
Posted July 9, 2011 at 11:39 AM
I'm speechless. Has anyone ridden this coaster? What's the safety restraint system? If it's simply a lap bar and the park attendants let him board, I'd be stunned.

From KJ Simpson
Posted July 9, 2011 at 2:03 PM
I have not ridden- this drop is way too big for me- but another article today said that there are lap belts in adddition to the bar. The lap belts were apparently added shortly after the ride opened, in response to a man falling out when his bar failed to engage properly due to his girth. That man only fell about ten feet down, though, and the injuries weren't life-threatening.

From Gareth H
Posted July 9, 2011 at 1:58 PM
Robert, ignore my email. Should have checked here first ;)

From Tony Duda
Posted July 9, 2011 at 3:49 PM
NBC nightly news on Saturday (TODAY, JUST NOW) just had story on this accident at about 15 minutes into the show.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted July 9, 2011 at 4:10 PM
Yeah, it's getting a lot more coverage than a story like this normally would. It was even on yahoo news. Directly attributable, I'm sure, to the fact that that the deceased was an Iraq war veteran.

From Robert Niles
Posted July 9, 2011 at 6:14 PM
That, and some theme park crew was clueless enough to allow a man with no legs onto a roller coaster. I'd be very interested to hear from witnesses what went down in the station before that train was dispatched.

From Adrienne McDonald
Posted July 9, 2011 at 6:39 PM
I've ridden this one & I felt fine in it. If you don't tighten the seat belt like some reports have been in different articles as of late, then yes it will feel 'loose' but I tightened mine as far as it would go & latched down the lap bar & I felt okay during the ride. It's a lot more jerky than the one at SFNE. One witness said that he threw his arms up and then he came out of his seat sorta towards her. IMO I wouldn't have let him on the ride. Sad that things like this happen!

From Neil Reece
Posted July 10, 2011 at 5:11 AM
My thoughts & prayers go out to the family of this brave man.
I don't know that the ride attendants were clueless. I would have found it difficult to say no to a wounded veteran who put his life at risk for my freedom, especially if the reason he should not ride was as a result of fighting for said freedom. A very difficult position for the ride operators who are usually high school and college age kids. It would have been a tough call for me and I'm a 48 year old M.D. I likely would have called management to make a decision.
Tragic loss. Godspeed.

From KJ Simpson
Posted July 10, 2011 at 5:55 AM
Today's paper says that two other coasters at the park have the requirement that riders must have two legs- but Ride of Steel does not have this requirement (not yet, anyway). There are also several statements from the man's family. They place no blame whatsoever on the park, and they are finding peace with the fact that he died doing something he loved (rather than in the war, where he came close to dying on several occasions).

From Derek Potter
Posted July 10, 2011 at 6:50 AM
What a tragic accident...one of our heroes survived the war and perished at an amusement park. My heart goes out to the family. They seem to be taking it pretty well from what I've seen, but it's still tragic and sad.

About the ride. It's an Intamin mega with the T-Bar restraint. I believe that all Intamin mega/gigas also now have the belt that feeds through the restraint as well. In short, the mechanical part of the restraint has a belt backup. If the reports are true, then the restraints didn't fail.

Not sure why a double amputee would be allowed to ride this coaster. The manufacturers are the experts, but I've ridden many different coasters hundreds/thousands of times, and I can tell you that you use your legs on many of them. If Intamin specs say it's ok, then they might have a problem. The ride operators and the park would then simply be following protocol.

It's easy for the discussion of not letting him ride to come up. From a management standpoint it's the proverbial rock and a hard place. I can tell you that it's a very slippery slope for a business to deny a disabled person something that according to "the book" is something they can do. The prospect of lawsuits and the potential PR nightmare of denying a disabled war vet a chance to ride when he's technically allowed to leaves any business in a sticky situation. If tech specs said that it's ok for him to ride, then he rides because A) He wants to, B) The specs say he can ride, and C) If he's denied a ride, a giant can of legal and PR worms could be opened. If specs said that he couldn't ride, then ride op and management's position would have been different. There are two million dollar questions to me

1. Did the tech specs of the ride allow a double amputee to ride?

2. Did the restraints fail?

If he was allowed and the restraints didn't fail, then the park cannot be held responsible, and I can't possibly imagine that they didn't triple check his restraints. The manufacturer on the other hand, could technically be on the hook. The reports also say that though the guy had just been fitted with a new pair of legs. Hate to ask this question, but if the restraints didn't fail, is it possible that those legs somehow failed him? G forces and airtime combined with a secure lap bar have a distinct effect on the body, and an extreme machine like this might affect a prosthetic attachment. That's speculation though, as the complete report hasn't been released.

It's all over the news this morning though, obviously because of his status as a war veteran.

From Rob P
Posted July 10, 2011 at 8:49 AM
When someone claimed that the man was legless I wasn't sure if he was a man without legs or someone intoxicated with alcohol.
It now appears that the former is the case so it begs the question of why proper health and safety measures weren't in place to prevent any risk of accident or even the prohibition of any person with that kind of disability from riding it at all simply because they didn't have those measures in place.
Either way I would question the Park owners' commitment to customer safety in this case. Sometimes people have to be protected from themselves. This was one of those times.

From Daniel Etcheberry
Posted July 10, 2011 at 9:15 AM
Can a park deny someone to get into a ride if they think that person's health or life could be at risk?

From Scott E
Posted July 10, 2011 at 2:42 PM
I would think they could if they felt that due to his physical challenges that it was not possible to safely restrain him into the coaster. They design these rides around people with no disabilities. That's not discrimination, it's just how it is. You cannot design a coaster to accomodate every possible disability a person can have. The thing is I'm sure there was plenty for this person to enjoy in the park without riding this ride. I feel bad for his family because was it worth risking his life for a ride at an amusement park? I sympathize because he was a veteran, and he sacrificed for us so he deserved respect... but he also deserved to be kept safe, and if that meant telling him it was not safe for him to ride this ride, then would it not be better to do so? He's still be here. Just my thoughts.

From Derek Potter
Posted July 10, 2011 at 5:05 PM
Actually it is discrimination if the ride has been deemed adequate and reasonably accommodating (which according to reports it was by the manufacturer because the ride was approved for such a rider), and a disabled person actually would have a case if they really wanted one. Any litigation might be made even worse in the press by the fact that he was a war hero. Public places get sued for discrimination if the hand dryer is 3 inches higher than the ADA standard, so a case like this would also have merit, especially one that could be high profile. Whether or not any kind of claim would have been pursued is only speculation, but most business owners and managers will tell you that protection from liability is a priority, and a discrimination case is definitely a liability in more ways than one. The park would have been slammed in the media for not allowing him to ride, and they obviously are being slammed because they did and something happened to him.

I'm just trying to offer some perspective from the side of the business here. Like I said before it's really easy to lay responsibility at the feet of the park, but in this case it just isn't that simple. There was no mechanical failure, no problem with fitting into the restraints, and the manufacturer said the ride was ok for him. The factors of discrimination, legality, and liability here prevent it from being a black and white issue.

From steve lee
Posted July 10, 2011 at 6:12 PM
Anyone else reminded of the furious letter to Busch Gardens Tampa regarding someone with a prosthetic limb not being allowed on a coaster? Wonder what that person thinks about this...

Snark aside, this is just a damned awful story no matter where the fault lies.

From Adam Dodds
Posted July 12, 2011 at 2:16 PM
At Space Mountain, the rule is at least one leg, no questions. It's strange because certain rules are steadfast, like the leg rule, others are not like how pregnant woman, or people with back or neck injuries are encouraged not to ride, but we don't say no to that if the guest insist.

Not every ride is built to be used by every guest, so despite ADA, sometimes it still okay to deny guest the ability to ride. The line is where the ride design become impractical or unsafe to for mainstream group of riders while the other is group (ex large guest) is trying to be accomidated. That is why, like rides such as FB can't handle large guest, but isn't facing a million lawsuits, just resentment and hate from fat people.

From Daniel Etcheberry
Posted July 12, 2011 at 4:19 PM
If I had been the supervisor, I would not have let him get into the coaster. I wouldn't mind to get a lawsuit or being fired because it is more important to preserve his life.

From Dave Stroem
Posted July 12, 2011 at 4:42 PM
Posted on the sign out side the Ride of Steel at Darien Lake. It says

"For the restraint devices to fully and safely engage, guest must have two legs and be within a certain range of size and physical dimension. In addition, guests must have sufficient body strength and the complete use of at least one arm and hand to hold on the grab bar. No guests may ride holding anything or with artificial limbs attached."

http://img543.imageshack.us/img543/1577/rideofsteelsign.jpg

There are couple of things that were not followed. First off the man had no legs. Second he did not meet the minimum ride height requirement.

I completely blame the park for this mans unfortunate accident. I am sure that lawsuits will be coming, but if DL is smart, they will just write a big check and then move on.

I also wonder if criminal charges could be filed. The ride operator in the Dells that dropped the girl was charged with a felony. The posted rules of this ride were disregarded. No if and or buts about it.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted July 13, 2011 at 7:37 AM
Adam said: "rides such as FB"

Adam, forgive me, but what is FB? Is it possible you meant FJ, as in Forbidden Journey?

From steve lee
Posted July 13, 2011 at 9:01 AM
Assuming that sign didn't magically appear in the last few days, that's pretty damning...

From Sarah Meeks
Posted July 13, 2011 at 9:13 AM
I would have let him ride, I would have gotten him exclusive ride time. It's sad, but at least he died doing what he loved. I think nying on a roller coaster is the best way to die.

From Mike Gallagher
Posted July 13, 2011 at 10:04 AM
I read one news article that mentioned the automatic on-ride photo. Said it showed Hackemer's nephew/riding companion staring straight ahead, a totally blank look on his face, death grip (no pun intended, believe it or not)on the grab bar. The photo was taken almost immediately after Hackemer was ejected, and has not been released to the public/media. I had never even thought of the on-ride photo. Also, the lap bar and seat belt were still completely intact/secure when the train arrived back in the station.

From Melissa Donahue
Posted July 13, 2011 at 1:21 PM
This story is completely tragic, but I can't even begin to imagine what life is like right now for this man's nephew after witnessing his uncle's tragedy, not to mention the other riders on the train or the park guests on the ground after watching him fall out. My heart goes out to those individuals as well.

From KJ Simpson
Posted July 13, 2011 at 5:49 PM
When the local news today had a piece about about the on-ride photo showing only the nephew, with empty lap bar next to him, the whole thing took a turn to the macabre for me. This is the same half-assed media outlet, though, that said Ride of Steel was one of the park rides that did NOT have a requirement that riders have two legs- which seems to be shown as incorrect now, so I'm not putting stock in anything coming from them at this point.

From Timothy Hoster
Posted July 15, 2011 at 4:02 PM
Te report I heard today on this mornings news was that he took his legs off after getting on board. Not sure how accurate it was also mentioned that tere is a possibility that tis was a sucide. Again not sure the accuracy but this could explain a lot if true.

This discussion has been archived, and is not accepting additional responses.

Theme Park Insider: Orlando 2014

Theme Park Insider: Orlando 2014

Get all of Theme Park Insider's reader ratings, tips, and advice for planning a trip to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, or SeaWorld, in our new 2014 Orlando guidebook! It's more than 200 pages of well-tested, insider information that will help you get the most from your vacation.
Order now: Kindle | iBooks | Paperback | Kindle (UK)