Investigation finds Ride operator manually changed sensors on seats, leading to death of teen at Orlando drop tower

orlando drop tower ride accident
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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

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!