Fist-sized metal piece critically injured Michigan woman at Cedar Point, officials say

John Seewer
Associated Press

Toledo, Ohio — A Michigan woman critically injured last week while waiting in line for the Top Thrill Dragster roller coaster at Cedar Point continues to recover as officials Monday announced more details in the investigation of the accident.

Authorities and amusement park officials have not released the condition of the victim, who is a 44-year-old woman from Swartz Creek, Michigan, according to an accident report released by Ohio officials.

In the report she is identified as Rachel Hawes.

In a statement to Cleveland 19 News, relatives said she was in intensive care with a brain injury.

"We are devastated by last weekend’s accident at Cedar Point. We want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers during this time," the family told the station. "Rachel is fighting for her life, and we would ask for privacy in this difficult time."

A piece of metal that flew off the world’s second-tallest roller coaster and hit the woman in the head came from the back of the ride's train and was about the size of a fist, an amusement ride safety official said Monday.

It's not known yet what caused the accident a week ago on the 420-foot tall roller coaster, said David Miran, head of Ohio's amusement ride safety division.

This May 1, 2003 file photo shows the green train on Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster in Sandusky, Ohio.

She could be heard screaming on body-camera footage released by police. She was treated at a hospital near the park in Sandusky before being moved to a hospital in Toledo.

The metal L-shaped bracket that hit Hawes on August 15 was attached to the back of the train and hovers above the track, Miran said. It's part of the sensor system that tells the coaster's computer where the train is on the track, he said.

The coaster train was nearing the end of the ride where it slows down when the metal plate broke, park officials said. It's not clear how far the piece flew before hitting the woman, Miran said.

A report released by the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s amusement ride safety division said the roller coaster was inspected in May. It showed no structural issues.

The coaster, which opened in 2003, launches riders on a straight away at 120 mph before it climbs a hill and then comes back down. The ride lasts less than 20 seconds.

A year after its debut, four riders were slightly injured when metal shavings sheared off the coaster’s launch cable.

The ride was temporarily shut down then, rounding off a series of accidents that took place in roller coaster's inaugural year, including a loose cable and a faulty hydraulic valve in the first month, the Blade reported. 

In 2016, CBS Detroit reported that the ride was temporarily shut down after a cable line became detached.

Last week, Cedar Point announced the ride would remain closed for the rest of the season as investigators review the incident.