orlando drop tower ride accident
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BREAKING: Investigation finds Ride operator manually changed sensors on seats, leading to death of teen at Orlando drop tower

The State of Florida has released a report of findings from its investigation into the death of a 14-year-old boy at a Central Florida theme park in March.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) released a report today that details the findings of an engineering firm hired by the State of Florida in the investigation into the death of Tyre Sampson, a 14-year-old boy who died after falling from the Orlando FreeFall drop tower attraction at Orlando’s ICON Park on International Drive.

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The agency is the entity responsible for amusement ride accident investigations, among its many other responsibilities.

According to the report, written by Quest Engineering & Failure Analysis, the operator of the Orlando FreeFall attraction changed sensors on specific seats on the ride manually. The manual adjustments rendered the drop tower attraction unsafe.

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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 the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner, Nikki Fried.

Tyre Sampson was only 14 years old when he boarded the Orlando FreeFall drop tower attraction on Thursday night, March 24, taking a seat on the ride with friends. Sampson reportedly weighed approximately 340 pounds, exceeding the drop tower ride‘s maximum weight.

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“These misadjustments [by the operator] allowed the safety lights to illuminate and properly satisfy the ride‘s electronic safety mechanisms that allowed the ride to operate, even though Mr. Sampson was not properly secured in the seat,” Fried said.

The day after the tragic accident, John Stine, a spokesman for the Slingshot Group, owner of the Orlando FreeFall attraction, talked about how the attraction works, saying the ride would not be operational if a harness is not locked in properly.

“Our harnesses have to lock in, and they have to lock or else the ride will not operate, so this is what we are looking into,” Stine explained.

Commissioner Nikki Fried held a brief press conference shortly after releasing the engineering firm’s report, but she didn’t take any questions from the press. During the conference, Fried did not say whether the ride operator would face criminal charges, but she said that the agency was looking into what she called “potential penalties.”

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She did not mention whether the ride operator could potentially face criminal charges in the case but said the agency was looking at “potential penalties.”

Fried said that these findings are part of the initial phase of the investigation, and that the investigation is still ongoing.

Nikki Fried further stated that the engineering report names “many other potential contributing factors” in the tragic accident. The commissioner also said that the drop tower ride will remain closed indefinitely.

About Becky Burkett

I'm an enthusiastic writer who finds joy in random things like cold weather, snow, "I Love Lucy," "The Andy Griffith Show," journals full of blank paper, countdowns to Christmas, the month of December, "Toy Story," "Sleeping Beauty," my 4 kids, my 4 shih tsus, Disney Parks history, Imagineering and visiting the parks. I think Walt Disney is the standard against which genius should be measured. I love to write about Disney Parks, Disney history, all things Imagineering and PIXAR. I adore the colors, story and art direction of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" (Team Make it Blue!), and "Toy Story" is life (minus "Toy Story 4"). I believe Walt Disney was so much more than an entertainment and theme park tycoon; I believe he was a savant with a vision for life and how it could be if happiness and kindness are strived for. I love Biergarten at EPCOT and 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian. You can find me croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room, chillin' on the PeopleMover or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. I'm always looking for Imagineers in the parks, and I'd rather meet Joe Rohde and Tony Baxter than anyone in Hollywood! Hey, if you dream it, you really can do it!