Woman struck by detached roller coaster part is ‘fighting for her life,’ family says

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A woman struck by a detached object from Cedar Point’s fastest ride suffered a brain injury and remains hospitalized, her family says.

The statement from her family came Monday as the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) provided an update on its investigation from the Aug. 15 incident at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. An L-shaped bracket — about the size of an adult man’s hand — became detached from Top Thrill Dragster, striking the woman who was waiting in line, ODA Chief of Amusement Ride Safety David Miran said.

The bracket is normally attached by bolts, but half of the bolts that connect it to the train were dislodged, Miran said. It’s likely it became dislodged as the ride reached its peak velocity of 120 mph.

“We are terribly sorry for the woman and her family who endured this tragic event,” Miran said.

The woman was identified in the incident report as 44-year-old Rachel Hawes, of Swartz Creek, Michigan, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. The report, according to the newspaper, said Hawes had an “unknown type of head injury.”

But in a statement to multiple outlets, including WTVG, Hawes’ family said she suffered a brain injury and was still in the ICU on Monday — eight days after the incident.

“We are devastated by last weekend’s accident at Cedar Point,” the family spokesperson said. “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.”

Top Thrill Dragster is the fourth-fastest roller coaster in the world and takes riders from 0 to 120 mph in 3.8 seconds as they’re launched 420 feet in the air. It is one of the most popular rides at the park, which is dubbed the roller coaster capital of the world.

It was last inspected by the state May 14, and Miran said no major issues were found with the part that later became detached. Miran did not speculate as to why the part came off the ride.

Body camera footage obtained last week by WKYC shows the aftermath of the incident, with Hawes screaming in pain.

The train has been sent to a laboratory to examine the bolts that remain in the train’s body, according to Miran. Cedar Point is in possession of the detached part, but state officials have taken pictures and examined it.

The ride has been closed since Aug. 15 and will remain shut down for the remainder of the 2021 season, Cedar Point announced last week.

“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 park said Aug. 19. “We will continue to offer our support to her and her family in this unimaginably difficult time.”

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