3:34 PM PDT, August 26, 2021
A Michigan woman is fighting for her life after getting struck by a flying metal object as she waited in line to ride a roller coaster at Ohio’s Cedar Point Amusement Park, according to a published report.
Rachel Hawes, 44, of Swartz Creek, Michigan, who was critically injured remains in the hospital in ICU with a brain injury. Hawes was first taken to Firelands Medical Center with an “unknown type of head injury,” and was later transferred to St. Vincent’s in Toledo, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.
“We are devastated by last weekend’s accident at Cedar Pointe,” Hawes’ family said in a statement obtained by WOIO. “We want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers during this time. Rachel is fighting for her life, and we would ask for privacy in this difficult time”.
The incident happened on August 15 while Hawes was waiting on line to ride the Top Thrill Dragster roller coaster when she was struck by a “small metal object,” that reportedly broke off from a train that was ending its run, a parks spokesperson told cleveland.com.
The following day, two inspectors from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) performed an inspection of the ride and confirmed that the piece of metal that hit Hawes was the size of a “man’s hand,” the Akron Beacon Journal reported.
According to the ODA, the last inspection of the Top Thrill Dragster was completed on May 14, 2021, by four ODA inspectors, WJW Fox8 News reported.
“Due to the changes in ride inspections implemented through Tyler’s Law, this ride is required to be inspected twice a year, with a minimum of two inspectors performing each inspection. The previous requirement was one inspection a year. The second inspection for the Top Thrill Dragster for this year was planned for September,” the statement said in part.
Top Hill Dragster is a strata roller coaster that reaches a top speed of 120 miles per hour in just 3.8 seconds and goes up to 420 feet, and has been part of Cedar Pointe since 2003, according to the park’s website.
After the accident, David Miran, the ODA’s chief of amusement rides told the Journal that the flying object was an “L-shaped” bracket that is connected to the back of the train car designed to look like a dragster. The bracket which was attached by bolts is supposed to hover just over the track and a series of sensors that keeps tabs on the coaster as it makes it way at speed over a 420-foot-tall hill in 17 seconds.
Miran said at some point during its descent, the bracket came in contact with the rollercoaster track and ripped off forte “green” coaster train and struck Hawes in the head, the Journal reported.
The investigation found that half of the bolts that secured the bracket to the train had also dislodged, the news outlet reported.
In an August 19 Facebook post, park officials announced that the Top Thrill Dragster will remain closed for the 2021 season as they continue to investigate.
“Our team has the health and welfare of our guest who was involved in Sunday’s incident at Top Thrill Dragster at the forefront of our minds,” the statement reads. “We will continue to offer our support to her and her family in this unimaginably difficult time,” Cedar Point park officials said.
“We want to fully understand what happened and why. Together with the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture’s Division of Amusement Ride Safety & Fairs, third party investigators, engineers, and the ride’s manufacturer, we are being careful, methodical, and thorough,” they went on. “We will not rush the investigation and will work tirelessly in our search for answers in the interest of improving safety. This process will take time.
“The safety of our guests and associates is our top priority and we refuse to operate any ride or attraction without total confidence in its safety.”