No charges in roller-coaster amputee death

A double-amputee Iraq War veteran who was thrown from a roller-coaster never should have been allowed on the ride, but park operators face no criminal charges, authorities say.

Workers violated policy when they allowed U.S. army veteran on amusement park ride

Sgt. James T. Hackemer was ejected from a roller-coaster at Darien Lake Theme Park Resort, located between Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y. (Marybeth Vandergrift/Help our Military Heroes/Associated Press)

A double-amputee Iraq War veteran who was hurled off a towering roller-coaster to his death never should have been allowed on the ride, but park operators will face no criminal charges despite violating park policy, authorities said Wednesday.

Signs at the Ride of Steel roller coaster at Darien Lake Theme Park & Resort clearly state riders "must have two legs," Genesee County Sheriff Gary Maha said.

Sgt. James Hackemer died Friday when he was thrown from the last and second-highest of three hills on the coaster. He fell about 45 metres and landed on a grassy area at the park, which is between Rochester and Buffalo.

"He didn't have the physical attributes to hold him in," Maha said.

Investigators found no criminal activity, including intent. Yet the ride operators, who were not identified, "clearly knew" Hackemer shouldn't have been riding but offered no explanation for why they let him on.

"Darien Lake violated their own policies and procedures by letting him get on the ride," Maha said.

Family doesn't blame park

Civil liability could be determined later if a lawsuit is filed, he said. Hackemer's relatives have said they do not hold the theme park responsible.

Maha said the state labour department is still investigating the mechanics and safety of the ride but have indicated to him that the coaster was operating correctly.

Hackemer was missing all of his left leg and most of his right leg and was not wearing prosthetic limbs when he was thrown from the ride. The 29-year-old father of two had lost both his legs to a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2008 and was on a family outing when the accident happened.

The roller-coaster car pulled into the loading station with the lap bar and seatbelt still in place, Maha said.

The ride is still closed pending the state labour department probe.

A funeral service for Hackemer is planned for Thursday in his hometown of Gowanda. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.