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Six Flags Darien Lake (SFDL) Discussion Thread


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I think you guys are being too critical of the park - are we sure that training was inadequate? You could pay ride ops million dollar salaries, and put them through training 7 hours a day, with only 1 hour of actual operation, and accidents would still happen occasionally. Major accidents are already incredibly rare, and there really wouldn't be much of a return on increased training or pay so long as they aren't grossly negligent (which may be the case in some 3rd world theme parks)

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I think you guys are being too critical of the park

 

Why? Because out of the 3 people (at least) working on the ride didn't look at this guy and say "Gee, he has no lap, so a lap bar wont hold him in?"

 

Not to mention it's on the warning sign, which I hope the ride operators would know fairly well who is/isn't fit to ride.

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I have to agree with Spidey on that. When I read the article the first thing I thought was who let him on that ride without legs. That seems rather negligent of at least the employees checking the restraints. I may have felt differently if it had otsr's.

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^Gonna agree with him on this one. From personal experience and multiple years of training ride ops, I can tell you that no matter how much training they get, some of them just don't "get it" or care. At that point, hopefully the supervisors/management are paying attention enough to notice which employees do their jobs and which don't, but unfortunately, the bad eggs slip through the cracks sometimes.

 

It's also been mentioned in this thread already, it could have also been a case where the ops were too timid to deny a severely disabled man a ride on the top coaster in the park. I can also speak from experience that it's rather intimidating and/or stressful to have to deny someone a ride sometimes, especially if you are a fairly new employee. Some just aren't assertive enough to put their foot down and say "no." It's very possible the ops were just too afraid or passive and didn't want the trouble of denying him the ride. That's no excuse for letting him on the ride, I'm just playing Devil's advocate here.

 

To reiterate what's been said several times, it's just a very, very bad situation for all parties involved, and it's a bell that can never be un-rung.

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^ I agree that denying someone a ride can be a little uncomfortable or difficult at times, but as a ride op that is kind of your job. Being a ride operator isn't the easiest job in the world (not the hardest either) but there are only a very small amount of things that can go wrong from an operations standpoint that can also result in a critical accident, and not enforcing rider requirements is one of them. I don't really think that the park can be blamed for lack of significant training, and your right this whole situation is very very bad for everyone involved, but at the end if the day the ultimate fault for the accident will be on the operations team.

 

I'm sure bartenders hate turning down people under age from drinking but that's their job and those are the rules.

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I may not have been to Darien Lake since 2007, but I remember the ride ops there vividly. They were a far cry from the ones I've seen places like Kennywood, CP, or Knoebels. They all looked bored, oblivious, and had absolutely no concept of how to efficiently run rides. So, again, I'm not shocked at all that yet another bad egg slipped through the cracks here.

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^ I agree that denying someone a ride can be a little uncomfortable or difficult at times, but as a ride op that is kind of your job. Being a ride operator isn't the easiest job in the world (not the hardest either) but there are only a very small amount of things that can go wrong from an operations standpoint that can also result in a critical accident, and not enforcing rider requirements is one of them. I don't really think that the park can be blamed for lack of significant training, and your right this whole situation is very very bad for everyone involved, but at the end if the day the ultimate fault for the accident will be on the operations team.

 

I'm sure bartenders hate turning down people under age from drinking but that's their job and those are the rules.

Agree wholeheartedly, and it was probably a case of someone who either didn't care enough/wasn't assertive enough to turn him away. That's probably the biggest shame of it all, someone's life could have been saved, and all it would have taken was one employee being assertive.

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I was a Team Leader on Maverick and we would get "Ride Prides" from colleges on the weekends at the end of the year. We would give them as much training as a regular employee that starts in the middle of the season. Before being trained on their specific rides, they also have to watch the same videos we watch and complete the same checklists and drug tests. If a TL is not comfortable with how a individual is doing, there are less safety heavy positions we can put them. Plus, at least at CP, they are not allowed to use buttons on coasters, so no enables for them. Also with Maverick, with a Ride Pride on each non button position, that still leaves 3 actual employees to watch there every move.

 

I'm not familiar with DL's training methods, but usually if someone doesn't cut it on a coaster, they get moved to a flat or kids area, or in CP's case, sweeps.

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There's just got to be something they're not telling us!?!?

 

How the hell can you not hold the staff and park negligent when you say that they didn't follow their own rules that led to a patron's death!?!? Isn't that pretty much the definition of negligence?!?!

 

Is this park in Florida, and is the guy who died actually a 2 year old girl!?!? (What? Too Soon?)

 

I think it comes down to having enough of a case to prove that the park and ride operators were criminally negligent vs just plain negligent (which is the civil issue). For it to be a criminal act, they would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the ride operators knew with 100% certainty that allowing this guy to ride would have killed him, whereas civil negligence is simply proving "hey dumb ass, you didn't use common sense and look what happened!"

 

And with that explanation, I can now say that paying attention in the two business law classes I was required to take have no payed off!

Edited by Jew
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I've been really intrigued by this story, and my thoughts go out to the family.

 

Last year I went on the Insider Tour on Montu at Busch Gardens Tampa. On the back of a few of Montu's seats as well as Sheikras, there are these small red plates, that have some different connections on them. I asked Montu's Manager what these were, and she said that they were specially for Amputees. She then showed me a Special Harness that they use, which wraps securely around the person, and then hooks to that small red plate. She said that it was new on the ride, because of the whole dilemma with the Veteran who was denied a ride a few years back. Sorry if this was posted already, but I'm wondering if anyone else can confirm this? Is it only a BG thing, or is it all B&M's?

 

If this is the case, it seems like a rather small thing that they could do to all rides, to make them more accessible to some of the veterans and amputees out there.

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This from the Buffalo News....pretty creepy about the near death experience when he talked about seeing heaven and hell. A premonition perhaps?

 

 

Holding up a copy of a blog that James' younger brother, John, had posted soon after the veteran had emerged from his coma in 2008, Waugh said that it was important for everyone to know this story.

John Hackemer told how he had walked into his brother's hospital room in Boston and noticed that James appeared to be in extreme distress.

"What's wrong, James?" he asked.

"I remember what happened to me after they medevaced me. I died and was transported to a place that no one would ever want to go," James said.

John Hackemer sought specifics.

"To which he [James] replied in an eerily convincing tone, 'I saw hell.' James then broke into sobs as he went on with the story."

The recovering veteran explained that while he was unconscious, he had felt like he was being transported into a volcano when a voice said to him, "Hang on, you'll like this ride.'"

 

As he descended, James Hackemer said, he felt no sense of fear and had lost all sense of time. "I could see people down there that were suffering nonstop. I couldn't hear them, but I could see them. They were unable to escape. That is when I became aware of the situation and began attempts to escape, to no avail. ...

"People in Army uniforms came and rescued me. The Army guys were the ones in the chopper that brought me back to life."

It was at that point, Hackemer told his brother, that his eyes gazed upon heaven. "I went into a bright room. ... It was really bright and full of tons of food. The people in there were very nice, and they gave me food and water and told me to rest. They assured me that I was safe now. After that, I woke up here in Boston not afraid of what had happened to me."

Sensing that there might be skeptics, James Hackemer ended his recollections on a humble note. "If you do not believe my story, that is fine, but know this -- there is a greater power, and there is a battle between good and evil, and I've seen both sides of it, and thank God I am where I am at today, just happy to be alive."

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I think it comes down to having enough of a case to prove that the park and ride operators were criminally negligent vs just plain negligent (which is the civil issue). For it to be a criminal act, they would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the ride operators knew with 100% certainty that allowing this guy to ride would have killed him, whereas civil negligence is simply proving "hey dumb A$$, you didn't use common sense and look what happened!"

 

And with that explanation, I can now say that paying attention in the two business law classes I was required to take have no payed off!

 

You obviously know more about the law than I do, but to me if the operators allowed the man to ride, knowing with 100% certainty that it would kill him, that sounds more like murder. In this case, they completely disregarded the parks rules in regards to riders having two working legs. Either they were lazy and careless, in which case that, at least to me, defines negligence, or they just felt pressured by the situation.

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I remember when I worked at SFoG in the 80's that the people actually working the panel on any of the coasters were 2nd year employees at least. They basically had a season of training by working on checking restraints, etc...then they got to become an actual "ride-op." I'm assuming this is no longer the case.

 

The entire situation is just terribly unfortunate and sad. I'm not going to cast aspersions or blame on anyone in particular since it seems that everyone involved seemed to have made crucial errors in judgement. From the man who died, to his friends and family, t o the ride ops, to the park Operations department, etc... It is not my place to judge anyone, but it kind of appears like a series of smaller mistakes and miscommunication built up into a very large problem.

 

My thoughts go out to EVERYONE involved in the situation, from the family, to the ride ops, to the guests on the train. It must have been just devistating to witness. I can't think that even the most "blah" ride-op would really ever get over an incident like this.

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I've been really intrigued by this story, and my thoughts go out to the family.

 

Last year I went on the Insider Tour on Montu at Busch Gardens Tampa. On the back of a few of Montu's seats as well as Sheikras, there are these small red plates, that have some different connections on them. I asked Montu's Manager what these were, and she said that they were specially for Amputees. She then showed me a Special Harness that they use, which wraps securely around the person, and then hooks to that small red plate. She said that it was new on the ride, because of the whole dilemma with the Veteran who was denied a ride a few years back. Sorry if this was posted already, but I'm wondering if anyone else can confirm this? Is it only a BG thing, or is it all B&M's?

 

If this is the case, it seems like a rather small thing that they could do to all rides, to make them more accessible to some of the veterans and amputees out there.

If it's available and approved for use on one B&M, then I would imagine that it would be the case for all of them, depending on what the park wants to pay for.

 

You have to remember that any addition or modification to a ride can sometimes end up costing a significant amount of money. It might seem like a "small thing", but rides aren't just plastic toys you buy at Wal-Mart, they are giant, expensive pieces of heavy machinery.

 

Adding special plates and harnesses to your ride might end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars, and then on top of it, it's very likely that you'll need to get your ride re-certified, have to re-train your supervisors, leads, and ride crew. Change your standard operating procedure manuals, etc.

 

A lot of the decision of having this done in probably made based on the amount of guests you'd have which fit the conditions necessary to have a special harness like that. Keep in mind also, that Busch does special ticket events, discounts, and promotions for members of the military and veterans. So it's very likely they might have an issue like this come up more often than other parks.

 

I have no idea how many a park like Darien Lake gets on a regular basis, but if they don't have enough guests that fit the requirement to spend the money to retro-fit a ride, then it might just not be worth it in the long run.

 

End of the day, the guy shouldn't have been let on the ride.

 

--Robb

Edited by robbalvey
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A lot of the decision of having this done in probably made based on the amount of guests you'd have which fit the conditions necessary to have a special harness like that. Keep in mind also, that Busch does special ticket events, discounts, and promotions for members of the military and veterans. So it's very likely they might have an issue like this come up more often than other parks.

 

 

That's what I was thinking as I started reading your post. Tampa is also home to one of only 4 polytrauma facilities in the country and they are extremely busy with service members returning from the wars. The hospital is also very close to BGT so I wouldn't be surprised they would modify some rides to allow injured service members the ability to ride. But agree, most parks have to weigh the cost of such modifications with actual necessity.

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I can confirm that busch gardens has the "red tabs" for kumba and montu, haven't looked for them on sheikra. However I haven't actually seen the harness in use. Also, they have a booklet full of EVERY single combination of amputations a person could have. Hands, feet, elbow, knee and every combination. For instance, the booklet will say

amputated

hand: 1

below knee: 2

can ride if all other conditions are met: yes

requires harness if all other conditions are met: yes

 

thats just a hypothetical, I don't actually have a booklet, but they've shown one to me when I asked. They told me they almost never have to use it, but it is useful when they do, and that they can point to the ruling in writing.

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thats just a hypothetical, I don't actually have a booklet, but they've shown one to me when I asked. They told me they almost never have to use it, but it is useful when they do, and that they can point to the ruling in writing.

 

That's interesting. In light of the accident, I could see alot of parks making the effort to make things more clear for those with amputated limbs, and for the operators. Even if they don't modify their rides to be more accommodating for them. Even just from a legal standpoint, it makes sense. People in North America sue for everything

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My condolences go to Sgt. Hackemer's family...such a tragic loss. I usually try to make it to Darien Lake once or twice every summer if I'm back home because it's only an hour away.

Some thoughts:

I was a ride op at Seabreeze for the summer of 2008. I only ran 3 rides (the Spring, Teacups, and Flying Scooters) and don't really remember hearing anything specifically about amputees and their limitations. However, when there was a disabled person in the park, they got a special wristband and our bosses would make sure to tell us about them/tell us what rides they would be able to get on. Of course, Seabreeze is a much smaller park than Darien Lake, so their procedures are probably different.

At Seabreeze, you had to be 18 to work anything that wasn't a kid's ride and had to have at LEAST a year's experience to run any of the coasters, if not more. (Jackrabbit was the most strict about this due to how difficult the hand-brakes are to move). Honestly, we were always told to call our bosses if we had any questions about whether someone was allowed on- better to be safe than sorry.

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http://www.wgrz.com/news/article/128357/37/Two-Violations-Issued-Following-Fatal-Roller-Coaster-Accident

 

BUFFALO, NY - The New York State Department of Labor is issuing two violations to Darien Lake Theme Park following the accident on the "Ride of Steel" that killed an Army veteran.

 

According to findings from the Department of Labor's investigation, the death of Sergeant James Hackemer was, "the result of operator error." The investigation also found the roller coaster to be mechanically sound and all safety devices working properly.

 

Sergeant Hackemer, 29, of Gowanda, was killed when he fell from the roller coaster. Hackemer lost both of his legs in battle in Iraq in 2008, and his family said he was not wearing his prosthetics when he boarded the ride.

 

The Department of Labor says, "The Park's safety and operational requirements, which were visibly posted at the entrance to the Ride of Steel, were not followed by the ride operators. These rules require that riders have both legs, because the safety devices restrain the legs, shins, and lap to hold the rider safely in the ride's car."

 

The two violations issued by the Department of Labor are for operators who were not properly trained on the safety and operations restrictions of the Ride of Steel, and operators who were unfamiliar with the safety requirements of the Ride of Steel.

 

The roller coaster was shutdown following the accident, but beginning today Darien Lake is being allowed to operate the ride after complying with the following orders:

 

- 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

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- Park management must now review all safety restrictions on every ride prior to the start of each ride operator's shift

 

This just seems like it will slow operations, and make working there even more monotonous, leading to even slower operations, as employees I'm sure will really HATE naming off regulations every shift, which is what it sounds like they're doing. I'm glad the ride is re-opening, but I hope it doesn't effect operations too much.

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