The Ride of Steel roller coaster is shown at Darien Lake Theme Park Resort in Darien, N.Y., Saturday, July 9, 2011. Sgt. James Hackemer, a U.S. Army veteran who lost his legs while deployed in Iraq was thrown from the 200-foot-tall roller coaster at the upstate theme park on Friday, July 8, 2011 and was killed. Hackemer, 29, was ejected from the Ride of Steel roller coaster at about 5:30 p.m., the Genesee County sheriff's office said. (AP Photo/David Duprey)
DARIEN, N.Y. — A U.S. Army veteran who lost both legs in Iraq and had been trying to rebuild his life was killed after he was thrown from a roller coaster at an upstate New York amusement park.
Teams of inspectors on Saturday were examining the Ride of Steel coaster at the Darien Lake Theme Park Resort, about 30 miles east of Buffalo.
Sgt. James Thomas Hackemer, 29, was ejected from the 208-foot-tall ride early Friday evening, after climbing aboard during an outing with family and friends. Authorities and a park spokeswoman declined to say at what point in the ride the accident occurred.
The wounded veteran was missing all of his left leg and most of his right one, as well as part of a hip, and had only recently returned for good to his parents’ home in Gowanda following years in and out of rehabilitation at hospitals around the northeast U.S.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether attendants at the theme park had given any thought to barring Hackemer from the ride because of his missing limbs.
People without both legs are barred from at least two other coasters at the park, the Motocoaster and the Predator.
Rules posted on the resort’s website for the Ride of Steel said that guests must be 54 inches or taller, but add that people with ‘‘certain body proportions’’ may not be able to ride. The website also suggests that guests try using a test seat at the coaster’s station house.
Theme park officials declined to answer questions about the accident on Saturday, citing the ongoing investigation. Both the state’s labor department, which has regulatory authority over amusement park rides, and investigators from the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department were on the scene.
‘‘We are all brokenhearted by this tragic accident and will continue our support of both the family and the investigation,’’ the amusement park’s general manager, Chris Thorpe, said in a statement.
A Labor Department spokesman confirmed that the agency is investigating, but said it wouldn’t be releasing additional information yet on the circumstances of the accident.
The park’s website describes the Ride of Steel as one of the tallest coasters east of the Mississippi River, climbing more than 200 feet and reaching speeds in excess of 70 mph.
The roller coaster and surrounding area were closed after the death. Other areas of the park remained open, and patrons arrived again on Saturday morning.
Hackemer was severely wounded in 2008 by an armor-penetrating warhead called an explosively formed penetrator. In a video interview with The Buffalo News this year, he described the aftermath of the attack, a hazy period in which he lost tremendous amounts of blood, had two strokes and was in a coma for six weeks at a series of hospitals.
His mother, Nancy Hackemer, told the newspaper in an interview after his accident Friday that the family had recently returned from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, D.C., where her son got ‘‘a new set of legs.’’
She said her son had been helped on to the ride by other people, and was ‘‘doing what he wanted to do.’’