Darien Theme Park Accident Highlights Need to Close Loophole In Federal Oversight of Fixed Site Amusement Park Rides

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), a leading consumer advocate in Congress and author of legislation to improve amusement park ride safety, today released the following statement on the death of Iraq war veteran Sergeant James Hackemer , who died after falling from the Ride of Steel roller coaster at Darien Lake Theme Park in New York State.  Sergeant Hackemer was a veteran of the Iraq War, where he lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device. 

Sergeant Hackemer was a hero. Following a courageous battle to recover from his wounds suffered during the Iraq War, he was enjoying a summertime activity like many Americans across the country when this tragedy occurred.  My condolences go out to his family and friends.

“It is outrageous that despite the increasing speed and force of so-called ‘hypercoasters’ like the one that claimed Sergeant Hackemer’s life, a loophole in current law prevents the Consumer Product Safety Commission from overseeing these fixed site amusement park rides. So while the government’s safety watchdog has the authority to ensure baby strollers are safe, it can’t oversee the safety of high-speed amusement park rides. Instead, the responsibility falls to state governments that may not have the resources or experience to carry out effective safety checks. This regulatory black hole makes no sense.

“I have consistently introduced legislation to close this dangerous loophole, but the amusement park ride industry pulls out all the stops to prevent it from moving forward in Congress. While the cause of the accident that claimed the life of Sergeant Hackemer is still unknown, one thing is crystal clear: hypercoasters that hurtle riders at speeds exceeding 70 mph along 200-foot drops should not be exempt from federal safety oversight.  I will continue to push for stronger safety standards, including legislation to enable the Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate rides when accidents occur so that tragedies can be prevented in the future.”