A United States Army veteran who lost both legs in Iraq was killed after he was thrown from a roller coaster at a New York amusement park.
Teams of inspectors were yesterday examining the Ride of Steel coaster at the Darien Lake Theme Park Resort, about 48km east of Buffalo.
Sergeant James Thomas Hackemer, 29, was ejected from the 63m-tall ride on Saturday. Authorities and a park spokeswoman declined to say at what point in the ride the accident occurred.
The wounded veteran was missing all of his left leg and most of his right one, as well as part of a hip, and had only recently returned for good to his parents’ home after years in and out of rehabilitation at hospitals.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether attendants at the theme park had given any thought to barring Hackemer from the ride.
Hackemer was accompanied by a dozen family members, including one of his sisters, Jody Hackemer.
“He was determined to ride every roller coaster,” she said.
“That minute he was on that ride, he probably felt the happiest and most normal he’s felt in 3 years.”
Hackemer rode the coaster with a college-age nephew, Ashton Luffred. Relatives said yesterday the young man was too shaken to speak to a reporter.
But Catie Marks, another of Hackemer’s sisters, said Luffred had told her park attendants did not challenge the disabled veteran’s desire to ride the coaster.
“Not one objection,” she said. “Not one question.”
People without both legs are barred from at least two other coasters at the park, the Motocoaster and the Predator.
Rules posted on the resort’s website for the Ride of Steel say guests must be 1.37m or taller, but people with “certain body proportions” may not be able to ride. The website also suggests guests try using a test seat at the coaster’s station house.
Passengers are held in by a bar that sits across their legs.