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State Labor Department issues violations against Darien Lake

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – The New York State Department of Labor has issued two violations against Darien Lake Theme Park for the fatal accident that killed an Iraqi war veteran.

29-year-old Army Sergeant James Hackemer of Gowanda died July 8th after falling out of the "Ride of Steel" roll coaster. Hackemer was a double amputee. He lost both his legs in combat while serving in Iraq.

The Department of Labor's investigation found that Sergeant Hackemer's death was the result of "operator error".

The Labor Department saud the "Ride of Steel" is mechanically sound and all safety devices work properly. But the Park's safety and operational requirements, which were visibly posted at the entrance to the Ride of Steel, were not followed by the ride operators.

These rules require that riders have both legs, because the safety devices restrain the legs, shins, and lap to hold the rider safely in the ride's car.

The Department of Labor is authorized to inspect amusement parks and issue violations where appropriate. Based on their investigation, the Department of Labor issued two violations to the Park:

Operators were not properly trained on the safety and operations restrictions of the Ride of Steel

Operators were unfamiliar with the safety requirements of the Ride of Steel On the day of the accident, the Department of Labor ordered the Park to stop operating the Ride of Steel until a full inspection of the ride was completed. Since then, the ride has remained closed.

Following orders from the Department of Labor:

All employees who operate the Ride of Steel have been retrained in safety procedures

New, clearer signage has been posted in the Park that describes ride safety regulations

Park management must now review all safety restrictions on every ride prior to the start of each ride operator's shift Since the Park complied with these orders, the Department of Labor approved the ride to reopen today.

The Department of Labor reminds riders to follow basic safety guidelines on rides at amusement parks and traveling carnivals. These include:

Listen to the ride operator's instructions

Read and follow posted warnings and instructions

Keep hands and feet inside the ride while it is moving

Don't reach toward fences or barriers

Secure loose clothing and long hair

Don't drink and ride

Don't stand or attempt to leave a ride until it comes to a complete stop

Check restraining devices to make sure they are properly latched

Avoid horseplay

Never attempt to unlock or loosen a restraining device until instructed by the operator

The Geensee County Sheriff's Department concluded in its investigation that Darien Lake will not face any criminal charges in the death.