A veteran from Gowanda, who lost both of his legs in the Iraq War three years ago, died Friday evening when he fell off a roller coaster at Darien Lake.
Sgt. James Hackemer attended the LEEK Preserve for a hunting and fishing trip with other injured veterans in May. He was one of the veterans featured in a story by Amber Woods and published in Solomon's words.
He is pictured above in the special rubber track wheelchair that allowed him to move around on rough ground at the event. Photo above shared by Jim Caskey.
Sgt. Hackemer came out of the Ride of Steel roller coaster and died at around 5:30 p.m. on Friday, according to a statement from Darien Lake.
The theme park is investigating, but believes all safety precautions were taken. The Ride of Steel will be closed until the investigation is complete, according to Darien Lake’s website.
Back in May, Amber Woods wrote this about Sgt. Hackemer:
A Vacation That Mattersby Amber Woods
Columnist Amber Woods shares her experience volunteering during a week-long trip for wounded veterans in Pennsylvania.
Sometimes a seemingly simple experience becomes something that makes you reassess every single thing that's important in your life.
As I write this, I'm sitting at a table with a group of injured American soldiers, who are hunting and fishing at a nonprofit volunteer-driven preserve in Potter County, Pennsylvania.
This is a vacation. Or at least, that's what I consider it.
What else would you call four days of baiting hooks or spending time "shooting the bull" with men who have survived one or more tours of duty in war-ridden countries?
While it's true that some of them barely lived to tell about it, they don't have to utter a word for outsiders to know something extremely traumatic has happened to them.
You can see it in each of their faces, some of them are marked by scars surrounding their entire heads, others missing one or more limbs.
You don't have to believe in the politics of this war, or the multitude of reasons we are in yet another conflict, to be touched by the lives of the people who are sacrificing everything in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last night I ate dinner across from a young military police officer who lost both of his legs three years ago when an explosive device came through the vehicle he was driving in Iraq.
As you can imagine, his life has changed drastically since then.
He told me that his wife, who was eight months pregnant at the time, came to visit him in a military hospital to announce she couldn't handle the severity of his injuries.
He hasn't seen her since that day.
Despite that, he has a positive outlook on life, never mentioning the obstacles he now has to overcome to do even the simplest thing—like getting out of bed each the morning, a task which requires assistance of others and a crane-type lift that was (after three years) finally provided to him by the government.