Woman Struck in Head by Roller Coaster Piece Is 'Fighting for Her Life,' Says 'Devastated' Family

Rachel Hawes' family said she is still in the hospital's ICU, suffering from a brain injury

Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point
The Top Thrill Dragster roller coaster at Cedar Point. Photo: cedar point

A family is speaking out about the woman who was injured by a roller coaster piece that hit her in the head at an Ohio amusement park.

Rachel Hawes was identified as the victim by the Akron Beacon Journal and CBS affiliate WOIO. On Aug. 15, she was waiting in line for the Top Thrill Dragster roller coaster at Cedar Point amusement park when she was struck by a "small metal object" that broke off from a train that was ending its run, Tony Clark, a spokesperson for Cedar Point, told Cleveland.com.

Following the incident, Hawes, 44, of Swartz Creek, Michigan, was transferred Firelands Medical Center with an "unknown type of head injury" and later transported to St. Vincent's Hospital in Toledo, according to the Journal.

In a statement released to WOIO on Monday, Hawes' family confirmed that she remains in the hospital's ICU in critical condition with a brain injury.

"We are devastated by last weekend's accident at Cedar Point," the statement reads. "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."

Cedar Point amusement park
Cedar Point amusement park. google maps

Opened in 2003, the Top Thrill Dragster is a strata roller coaster that reaches a top speed of 120 miles per hour in just 3.8 seconds, according to the Cedar Point website.

In the wake of the incident, two inspectors from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) were called to the amusement park, where they performed an inspection of the ride and investigation of the accident, according to Fox affiliate WJW.

State investigations later confirmed that the piece of metal that struck Hawes was about the size of "a man's hand," the Journal reported.

The investigation also determined that the piece was an "L-shaped" bracket that was connected to the back of the car and supposed to hover over the track, David Miran, the ODA's chief of amusement rides, told the Journal.

During the ride's descent, the bracket — which is typically attached by bolts — came in contact with the track, ripped off the car and struck Hawes in the head, per the Journal. Half of the bolts also became dislodged during that time, the outlet reported.

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Department officials told WJW that the attraction's last inspection was completed on May 14 by four inspectors from the ODA, which oversees amusement park ride safety.

"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 ODA told the outlet. "The previous requirement was one inspection a year. The second inspection for the Top Thrill Dragster for this year was planned for September."

Miran noted to the Journal that the train's car and other pieces of evidence have since been sent to a lab for further investigation.

In a statement posted on Facebook last Thursday, Cedar Point 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."

"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."

"As a result, Top Thrill Dragster will remain closed for the 2021 season," Cedar Point added. "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."

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