The Michigan woman who was struck in the head by a piece of metal that flew off what was once the world’s fastest and tallest roller coaster in 2021 claims she will need medical assistance for the rest of her life as treatment costs will exceed $10 million, according to a lawsuit.
Rachel Hawes was waiting in line to ride the Top Thrill Dragster rollercoaster at Ohio’s Cedar Point amusement park when she was suddenly hit by a random object, which was later identified as a proximity flag plate that belonged to the coaster.
“She was seriously and permanently injured when struck in the head by a part from the roller coaster, Top Thrill Dragster, while in line,” the lawsuit stated.
She filed a lawsuit in Erie County Common Pleas Courthouse in Ohio on Wednesday against Cedar Fair L.P., the owner of Cedar Point amusement park, and Doe Corporation for “sums in excess of $25,000” and punitive damages determined by a jury.
“The proximity flag plate came off the Top Thrill Dragster roller coaster as a result of the bolts holding it in place becoming loose (backing out) and breaking, failing to hold the plate in its proper position as intended in accordance with its design because of improper installation and inspection,” Hawes’ attorneys allege in the suit. “The bolts on the proximity flag plate became loose and broke, due to the negligence of the Cedar Point Defendants.”
A proximity flag plate is a heavy “L-sharped” metal object, roughly the size of a human hand, that bolts to the body of the train/cars of a ride
The Swartz Creek resident claims to have suffered several severe injuries including head trauma that resulted in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), a brain hemorrhage and hematoma and a head fracture associated with a cerebral laceration that resulted in the loss of consciousness for more than 24 hours.
After being hit by the fallen metal object, Hawes received medical treatment at the park and was transported between three different hospitals in Ohio and Michigan, where she racked up a medical bill of over $2 million, with future costs expected to reach in excess of $10 million.
“The Cedar Park defendants were negligent with failing to protect individuals, such as Rachel Hawes, from being injured from parts, debris, and/or objects falling from Defendant’s rides,” the lawsuit read.
Hawes was enrolled in a graduate school program to become an educator but the lawsuit claims she lost out on an estimated earning capacity sum of $1,265,000 and is “permanently disabled, and will no longer be able to work.”
The park was found not responsible for Hawes’ injury, stating Cedar Park followed all laws and rules pertaining to the operation of a roller coaster and found the situation was an accident, according to an investigative report from the Ohio Department of Agriculture released in February 2022.
“After examining the documentation provided and conducting interviews of Cedar Point staff, ODA found no evidence that Cedar Point had knowledge of or reason to believe that the Top Thrill Dragster was in an unsafe condition that could cause a hazard to riders, employees, or the public on August 15, 2021,” the report read.
The lawsuit also claims members of her family have been impacted by her injuries, including her husband Slater, who is being “deprived of consortium, society, companionship, care, assistance, attention, protection, advice, guidance and counsel of his wife along with mental anguish.”
Hawes’ father Robert Edmonds has experienced “fright, terror, and serious emotional distress,” after watching his daughter get struck by he falling object.
Cedar Point did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Top Thrill Dragster was closed following the incident while the state conducted its investigation.
State officials announced a year later that it would shut down permanently.
“After 19 seasons in operation with 18 million riders experiencing the world’s first strata coaster, Top Thrill Dragster, as you know it, is being retired,” the park said in a statement in September 2022.
At the time of its shutdown, the coaster was one of the tallest and fastest coasters in the world — second only to Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey — with the Dragster reaching speeds of 120 mph and 420 feet.