EDMONTON — It's been 30 years since Rod Chayko was flung from a flying roller-coaster at West Edmonton Mall, and it bothers him still that there is no memorial at the site to honour the three people who died that day.
Chayko was the lucky one, the only survivor in the last car that jumped the track on the popular Mindbender ride on June 14, 1986. The car had been going about 100 km/h when it struck a pillar and hurled its four passengers to the concrete floor below.
The Mindbender — the world's largest indoor triple-loop roller-coaster in the world's largest indoor amusement park in what was once the world's largest shopping centre — had also been billed as one of the world's safest rides.
It shut down for more than a year and, after safety modifications, remains a main attraction at the mall.
Chayko, a 55-year-old retired welder, lives in Revelstoke, B.C., his once broken body a source of daily pain that he treats with medical marijuana. He kicked prescription painkillers more than a decade ago.
Rodney Chayko smokes medical marijuana at his home in Revelstoke, B.C. on Thursday, December 15, 2016. It's been 30 years since Chayko was flung from a flying roller-coaster at West Edmonton Mall, and it bothers him still that there is no memorial at the site to honour the three people who died that day. (Photo: Jeff Bassett/The Canadian Press)
He's been back to the mall several times over the years, on visits with his children and grandchildren. And although he won't ever go on the Mindbender again, he doesn't want to discourage others from getting on the ride.
The crash was "an accident — plain and simple," he says.
But it's one that should be remembered.
"David, Tony and Cindy are dead and it changed my life forever," says Chayko.
"I think about it every day.''
Chayko had been living in Fort McMurray when he and his friend David Sager, 24, of Calgary travelled to the mall for a night of fun. Chayko describes his friend as a thrill-seeker who liked fast cars and had just won an amateur strip-tease contest at a bar a night earlier.
The pair were last to get on the Mindbender and sat in the last car behind Tony Mandrusiak, 24, and his fiancee Cindy Sims, 21.
"I remember feeling it sway and grabbing onto the handle," recalls Chayko. "The next thing, I was landing on the ground."
The Mindbender roller-coaster in West Edmonton Mall. (Photo: Andrew Bain/Getty Images)
The crash shattered his lower legs, crushed half his left shoulder and broke his feet, pelvis, lower back and every rib on his left side.
Doctors who couldn't count all the fractures in his legs thought they might have to amputate, but opted to surgically insert metal plates so the bones might heal. After six months in hospital, Chayko stood in leg braces and married his girlfriend, Joanne.
Chayko eventually ditched the braces and doctors removed the plates from his legs. He continued working for 15 years before he retired because of chronic back pain.
A provincial inquiry eventually blamed the crash on a defunct West German company for design and manufacturing flaws. It found that four bolts had worked loose, allowing a wheel assembly to fall off the roller-coaster car.
"I'm famous but I ain't rich"
Chayko says he received an undisclosed settlement from the mall after the accident. "I'm famous but I ain't rich."
And the mall gives him free tickets to mall attractions whenever he asks.
But he has also requested a few times over the years for the mall to put a memorial bench near the Mindbender. Staff offered instead to put a plaque on an office wall, Chayko says.
"I said, 'No, no,''' he says. "To me that's not a memorial."
Chayko says he doesn't want to make a fuss, but is still hopeful the mall might change its mind.
Rodney Chayko sits on a snowmobile at his home in Revelstoke, B.C. on Thursday, December 15, 2016. (Photo: Jeff Bassett/The Canadian Press)
A spokesman for the mall declined comment.
To honour the anniversary of the crash this year, Chayko ordered custom hoodies, with "survivor" stitched on the arm.
Not every one knows his story, he says, but when he explains that he was on the Mindbender when it crashed, people nod.
"'I remember where I was that day' — everybody says that one," says Chayko.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
According to the New York State Department of Labor always make sure you have don't have any loose ends. Secure your clothing, jewelry and even hair before stepping onto a ride to ensure that nothing gets tangled up in the roller coaster.
According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions don't overlook the listed age, height, weight and health restrictions. They are there for a reason and in ignoring them, you drastically increase your risk of getting injured.
As reported by Parade.com It is extremely important that you keep your head, hands, arms legs and feet inside the ride at all times. Limit movement as much as possible to enjoy the ride.
According to the New York Department of Labor, to prevent neck injuries, one should always keep their eyes looking forward to protect against quick accelerations and direction changes.
As stated on the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions website, if you see or feel like there is something wrong with the ride do not be afraid to report it to an employee. Speak up immediately!
Wait until you are told to unbuckle your safety belt/bar/harness etc. According to Parade.com it is extremely important that you not preemptively unbuckle your seatbelt because rides coming to false stops or not being secured can lead to serious injury.
Even though you probably just want your friend to experience the joy you get out of amusement park rides, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attraction's amusement park safety tips, you should never force anyone to go on a ride that they don't want to because it might cause them to behave unsafely.
According to Themeparkinsider.com, you should never enter an area that is clearly restricted. Do not climb fences or walk through unidentified gates. If you drop a personal item from a ride make sure that you ask an employee to help retrieve it, but never try to get back yourself.