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LOCAL NEWS BRIEFS

Ride of Steel coaster closed for the season

The roller coaster from which a Iraq war veteran fell to his death last month has been shut down for the remainder of the season, officials with the Darien Lake Theme Park Resort announced Thursday.

"While we regret to inform our guests that the roller coaster will be down for remainder of the season, we still have a large variety of rides and attractions for all ages to enjoy," said Christopher Thorpe, general manager of the park in a statement posted on the park's website.

The roller coaster, Ride of Steel, was closed for two weeks after James T. Hackemer, a double amputee, was ejected from the ride on July 8. It reopened but was shut down again on Aug. 11 after a mechanical failure that stranded 32 passengers Thursday. Park officials said a chain on the ride broke while a train was traveling up the roller coaster's hill lift.

State Labor Department investigators blamed operator error for Hackemer's death. The ride requires patrons to have two legs.

Hackemer's family is now suing Darien Lake. The wrongful-death case is pending in federal court in Buffalo.

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Kwanza Fisher honored as ‘Champion of Change'

WASHINGTON—The daughter of former Buffalo Common Council member Charley H. Fisher III was honored as a "Champion of Change" at the White House on Thursday.

Kwanza Fisher, 24, was recognized for creating "Neighborhood Mathematica," a year-old math program and competition for first-through-eighth graders in Atlanta, where she grew up.

The longtime Buffalo activist looked on as his daughter gave a presentation to White House officials about the math program she created.

"The most important thing is to overthrow this culture of complacency and adopt a high-stakes ethos of achievement in homes and neighborhoods," Kwanza Fisher said. "With Neighborhood Mathematica, students get excited to show what they have learned and represent their neighborhoods in a competition. They begin to associate achievement with where they live."

Kwanza is a Wellesley College graduate who speaks fluent Chinese, her father said.

"I couldn't be more proud of her," he said.

The Champion of Change program is a weekly White House effort to recognize Americans who are making a positive impact in their communities.

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2 Southern Tier counties designated disaster areas

Allegany and Cattaraugus counties have been designated as primary natural disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture due to damage and losses caused by heavy rain, violent storms and cool temperatures between March and May. The declaration makes farmers in those counties eligible for federal low-interest loans.

Farmers in four other contiguous counties -- Chautauqua, Erie, Livingston and Wyoming -- also qualify for disaster assistance, federal officials say.

Farmers have until April 16 to apply for low-interest emergency loans to cover part of their losses. For information, farmers may contact their local USDA Service Center or visit disaster.fsa.usda.gov.