Orlando FreeFall Drop Tower where 14-Year-Old was Killed Will be Dismantled

The Orlando FreeFall drop tower attraction at ICON Park on International Drive in Orlando will be taken down, following the death of a teenager in March 2022.

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Credit: ICON Park Orlando

Operators for the Orlando Free Fall attraction at ICON Park in Orlando announced on Thursday that the attraction will be taken down. The fate of the new attraction was uncertain following the death of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson in March of this year.

Sampson and his friends visited ICON Park during Spring Break this year, and as the group made its way around the park, Sampson was reportedly denied access to more than one ride on the site, as personnel said he exceeded parameters for guests on the attractions. However, Sampson was permitted to ride the Orlando Free Fall, a drop tower attraction operated by Slingshot Group, LLC, that lifts riders more than 400 feet above the ground before “dropping” them in a freefall before large, strong magnet “brakes” stop the freefall and gently lower riders to the ground.

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Sampson and his friends boarded the attraction, and shortly after they were lifted to the highest point on the attraction–more than 40 stories above the ground, the seats on the ride tilted forward, as they were designed to do, and Sampson reportedly fell from his seat at that time to the ground below. He was pronounced deceased at a local hospital shortly thereafter.

A seat on the Orlando Free Fall ride is covered in plastic and tape at ICON Park on International Drive — Florida Senator Randolph Bracy (D-Ocoee) and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried hold a community conversation concerning the future of several attractions at ICON Park, on Wednesday, June 22, 2022. The Slingshot Group operated the Orlando Free Fall and Orlando Slingshot which both suspended all ride operations after the death of 14-year old Tyre Sampson on March 24. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/ Orlando Sentinel)

Credit: Orlando Sentinel

Per Sampson’s autopsy report, the teen was more than 100 pounds over the weight limit for the ride. It was reported that ride operators manually changed sensors on the ride that would have kept the ride from functioning with someone of Sampson’s size in a seat without the restraint adequately applied.

The manual modifications to the attraction rendered it unsafe to operate and played a role in Sampson’s fall, per the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) report, written by Quest Engineering and Failure Analysis. FDACS is the state entity that regulates rides and attractions.

In the report, the engineering firm states that the manual changes made by the operator allowed the safety harnesses on those seats to open to “almost double” the normal range, according to FDACS Commissioner Nikki Fried.

14-year-old boy killed in fall from ICON Park's Orlando Free Fall ride, deputies say - Orlando Sentinel

Credit: Orlando Sentinel

In a statement on Thursday, Slingshot Group’s CEO Ritchie Armstrong announced that the company decided to take down the ride after hearing about multiple calls for the attraction to be removed.

“We are devastated by Tyre’s death. We have listened to the wishes of Tyre’s family and the community and have made the decision to take down the FreeFall,” Armstrong said in a statement. “In addition, Orlando Slingshot will honor Tyre and his legacy in the classroom and on the football field by creating a scholarship in his name.”

An unsigned statement from ICON Park details the park’s agreement with the decision.

“Tyre’s death is a tragedy that we will never forget,” the statement reads. “As the landlord, ICON Park welcomes and appreciates Orlando Slingshot’s decision to take down the ride.”

No date for the dismantling of the attraction was given, and details about the scholarship were not shared.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!