DARIEN LAKE - A Gowanda man who lost both his legs while fighting in Iraq died Friday night while at an amusement park.
Authorities are investigating the death of Sgt. James Hackemer involving an incident on a roller coaster at a theme park in upstate New York.
In a written statement, Cassandra Okon, a spokeswoman for Darien Lake Theme Park Resort, says the man "came out" of the Ride of Steel roller coaster and "passed away" at about 5:30 p.m. Friday. She says the roller coaster and the area surrounding the ride have been closed.
OBSERVER file photo
Sgt. James Hackemer appears on an live video feed between his hospital room and the Gowanda Moose Lodge hall during a benefit in his name on June 29, 2008. Hackemer died after riding a roller coaster Friday.
Buffalo media outlets say witnesses say Hackemer's safety restraints - a belt and bar - were working properly when he fell out of the very front of the ride on the first hill.
Hackemer was a graduate of Gowanda High School who suffered an almost fatal accident on his second tour of duty in Iraq in March 2008. Hackemer lost both his legs and suffered brian damage when a road side bomb hit the vehicle he was traveling in.
Hackemer returned home to his family in Gowanda in October, 2008.
Hackemer was visiting the park with his sister and children, who were not on the ride when the incident occurred.
Genesse County Sheriff's Department investigators were at the scene and said they did not believe a mechanical issue caused the accident. The coaster is reported to have been traveling at 50 miles per hour at the time of the accident.
The theme park's website describes the Ride of Steel as one of the tallest coasters east of the Mississippi, climbing approximately 208 feet and reaching speeds in excess of 70 mph.
The Darien Lake Theme Park is located between Buffalo and Rochester.
Calls to Darien Lake's Public Relations Office by the OBSERVER were not returned Friday night.