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Cyclone: Joy ride or death ride?

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The family of a man who fatally broke his neck on a birthday ride on the Cyclone last summer is blaming the city for not keeping the Coney Island coaster safe.

In a lawsuit filed last week in Manhattan federal court, the family of Keith Shirasawa, 53, say the California man snapped his neck and broke several vertebrae when the landmark wooden roller coaster sped down the first steep hill on July 31, 2007.

“He came out and had a look of pain on his face and was holding his neck. I asked him what was wrong, and he said something happened, and he had lost the feeling in his fingers,” Linda Walker, his girlfriend, told The New York Post then.

When the numbness began spreading to his legs, Walker urged a worker to call 911. Shirasawa was taken to the hospital, where doctors performed emergency surgery on his neck, but he died on Aug. 4 due to complications from the operation.

His family says he had been in good health prior to the accident. The lawsuit names the city, which owns the famously rickety attraction, and former Astroland theme park owner Carol Albert, who leases the ride from the city, as plaintiffs. The suit claims that Shirasawa died because the ride’s brakes needed to be fixed and that the single lap bar holding people on board should have been replaced with a more modern restraint.

“Shirasawa’s … death was caused by culpable conduct and negligence of the defendants in their failure to repair, maintain, upgrade, supervise, operate and control the premises,” said documents filed last Wednesday.

Besides Shirasawa’s death, there were six other accidents in 2007 when riders suffered serous back or neck injuries, but the coaster’s operator says she’s repaired a malfunction that allowed the ride to reach dangerous speeds.

The city Law Department said it could not fully comment until it had reviewed the court papers.

“This involves a very tragic matter and we’ll review the family’s complaint thoroughly upon receipt,” said agency spokeswoman Kate O’Brien Ahlers.

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