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Investigation into fatal roller coaster fall continues

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – The investigation into a fatal fall from a ride at Darien Lake Theme Park continues.

On Friday, 29-year-old Iraqi war veteran Sergeant James Hackemer of Gowanda, fell to

his death from the Ride of Steel roller coaster. Hackemer was a double amputee. The park ride remains closed and the Darien Lake Website statement says it will not operate the ride until an investigation is complete. But the rest of the park is in operation. Meanwhile, Darien Lake is asking any guests who witnessed the incident to contact the park.

A wake and funeral services are now set for Sgt. Hackemer. A wake will be held Wednesday afternoon and evening at the Gowanda Assembly of God Church in Gowanda. Funeral services will also be held at the church Thursday morning at 11. Hackemer will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery at a future date.

A Congressman from New England is calling for better safety regulations for amusement park rides. Representative Edward Markey, a democrat from Massachusetts, plans to reintroduce legislation.

Congressman Markey noted that the Darien Theme Park accident highlights the need to close a loophole in federal oversight of fixed site amusement park rides.

The following is a statement Congressman Markey released:

"Sergeant Hackemer was a hero. Following a courageous battle to recover from his wounds suffered during the Iraq War, he was enjoying a summertime activity like many Americans across the country when this tragedy occurred. My condolences go out to his family and friends."

"It is outrageous that despite the increasing speed and force of so-called hypercoasters' like the one that claimed Sergeant Hackemer's life, a loophole in current law prevents the Consumer Product Safety Commission from overseeing these fixed site amusement park rides. So while the government's safety watchdog has the authority to ensure baby strollers are safe, it can't oversee the safety of high-speed amusement park rides. Instead, the responsibility falls to state governments that may not have the resources or experience to carry out effective safety checks. This regulatory black hole makes no sense."

"I have consistently introduced legislation to close this dangerous loophole, but the amusement park ride industry pulls out all the stops to prevent it from moving forward in Congress. While the cause of the accident that claimed the life of Sergeant Hackemer is still unknown, one thing is crystal clear: hypercoasters that hurtle riders at speeds exceeding 70 mph along 200-foot drops should not be exempt from federal safety oversight. I will continue to push for stronger safety standards, including legislation to enable the Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate rides when accidents occur so that tragedies can be prevented in the future."