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New York State Department of Labor

State Labor Department Issues Violations to Darien Lake Theme Park

“Ride of Steel” is Authorized to Reopen Today After Corrective Actions Taken

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Albany, NY (July 22, 2011) -

The New York State Department of Labor today issued two violations to Darien Lake Theme Park following a thorough investigation into the July 8 fatality of Army Sergeant James Hackemer while on the "Ride of Steel." 

The incident has also led to independent investigations by local law enforcement.

The Department of Labor's investigation found that Sergeant Hackemer's death was the result of operator error. The Ride of Steel is mechanically sound and all safety devices work properly. 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. Sergeant Hackemer lost both his legs in combat while serving in Iraq. 

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

More information about ride safety is available on the web site www.ridesafeny.com. The web site offers riders, parents, and children helpful tips on ride safety, along with a directory of amusement parks in New York State. The web site also makes it simple to e-mail the Department of Labor to report unsafe conditions.


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