Niagara Gazette

Local News

January 8, 2013

Seven-figure settlement in Darien Lake coaster death

BUFFALO — A settlement has been reached in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed against a western New York amusement park by the family of a double amputee Iraq veteran killed when he fell out of a roller coaster.

The settlement reached by lawyers for Darien Lake Theme Park and Resort and James Hackemer's family is reportedly for a seven-figure amount. David Brock, an attorney with the Buffalo law firm representing the park, said he couldn't comment on the amount because the settlement called for keeping the figure confidential.

Brock confirmed that Hackemer's two young daughters, ages 3 and 4 at the time of the July 2011 accident, are the beneficiaries of the settlement

"Everyone is kind of happy to have this behind us," Brock told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "Everyone is able to kind of move on."

Denis Bastible, a lawyer with the Buffalo firm that represented Hackemer's family, also said he couldn't comment on the amount of the settlement, which was approved by a U.S. District Court judge last Wednesday.

"It's going to secure the future of these two girls, who are 4 and 6, throughout their life," Bastible said.

Hackemer was an Army sergeant when he lost both legs to a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2008.

On July 8, 2011, the 29-year-old was at Darien Lake in Genesee County with his family when he fell out of a car on the Ride of Steel coaster, landing on the ground about 150 feet below.

Hackemer wasn't wearing his prosthetic legs when he got onto the ride. Investigators said he came out of his seat and its restraints on the last and second-highest of three hills on the coaster, which reaches speeds in excess of 70 mph and whose highest peak is 208 feet. The veteran struck the front of the eight-car train and fell about 150 feet, landing on a grassy area.

State officials determined operator error was to blame for the accident. Investigators said park workers didn't follow rules posted at the ride's entrance, which require that riders have both legs.

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