Ride of Steel Reopens, Darien Lake Officials Answer Questions About Tragedy

July 22, 2011 Updated Jul 23, 2011 at 5:04 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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July 22, 2011 Updated Jul 23, 2011 at 5:04 PM EDT

Darien Lake (WKBW) Two weeks after Army Sergeant James Hackemer fell to his death off of the "Ride of Steel" roller coaster, the ride reopened Friday.

"We will never fully understand why Sgt. Hackemer boarded that train that day," Darien Lake General Manager Christopher Thorpe said Friday, as part of a news conference.

As the coaster reopens, Darien Lake is vowing that an accident like the one that took the life of an Iraqi Veteran will never happen again.

"We looked at our procedures and policies and expanded our existing training to include re-certification, increased audits, and increase disability information," Thorpe said.

Despite what happened that day, park guests once again lined up for the thrill ride as it reopened Friday.

Park patrons said they felt safe, but one did not that it seemed different than before, possibly because of the incident.

The "Ride of Steel" had been closed while the incident was investigated. The Department of Labor found operator error responsible for the death of the disabled army sergeant.

The Department of Labor issued two violations to the park (from D.O.L. Press release):

• 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

Thorpe and Darien Lake officials are confident that the amusement park remains a place that is fun and safe for families of all ages.

"The enhancement that we've made to our training procedures and the enhancement that we've made to our operation will make a safe place even safer," the General Manager said.

The biggest remaining question: Why was sergeant Hackemer allowed to ride the "Ride of Steel?" That question remains unanswered.

"I don't want to speculate on what was said or done or what the thought process was behind the individuals on that ride. I do not know," Thorpe said Friday.