Attraction Dismantled by Crane at Orlando Theme Park Following Tragic Teen Death

tyre sampson orlando freefall drop tower ride icon park

The dismantling of an Orlando-area theme park attraction has begun, following a tragic accident in 2022.

On Wednesday, a crane began the process of breaking down the massive Orlando FreeFall drop tower attraction structure at ICON Park in Orlando, located approximately 15 minutes from the Walt Disney World Resort. The decision to remove the structure was made following the tragic death of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson, who visited ICON Park in March 2022 with friends and slipped from the restraint on the ride, falling hundreds of feet to the ground below.

ICON Park tells Orlando FreeFall operator to suspend all ride operations

Credit: Click Orlando

In October, the ride owners agreed to dismantle the 40-story structure, following the death of the young teen, after a private, third-party investigation and a thorough investigation by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), which revealed that the restraint on Sampson’s seat aboard the Orlando FreeFall ride had been manually adjusted, resulting in his fall from hundreds of feet above the ground.

Florida officials seek $250,000 fine for the operator of Orlando drop tower  amusement ride after a 14-year-old fell to his death | CNN

Credit: CNN

“There is nothing more important to ICON Park than the safety of our guests and employees,” ICON Park said in a statement on Wednesday. “We agree with the goal to ensure extra diligence and oversight with mid- to small-attraction operators for ride training, testing, and process documentation, which we also focus on in our own rigorous ride safety protocols. While the FreeFall ride is not owned and was not controlled or operated by ICON Park, because it is a tenant on the property, we agree with the owner’s decision to dismantle the ride, and our hearts are with the family as they witness this important milestone.”

The owner and operator of the ride, Slingshot Group, settled with the State of Florida, agreeing to pay a $250,000 fine and to refrain from ever operating the Orlando FreeFall ride again.

A crane removes the top of the Orlando FreeFall ride at ICON Park Wednesday.

Credit: Click Orlando

In a separate statement to News 6 Orlando last week, ICON Park confirmed that the dismantling of the ride had already begun, saying, “We have been supportive of the Slingshot Group’s decision to dismantle the FreeFall tower and are pleased that the process has begun. The activity will be contained on the southwest corner of the property, and ICON Park’s attractions, restaurants, and dining venues will remain open and operating as normal for guests.”

“It’ll be a year coming up March 24,” Sampson’s father, Yarnell Sampson, said. “It’s been my worst nightmare. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”

The official autopsy report revealed that Sampson exceeded the weight limit on the attraction by nearly 100 pounds. The manual produced by the ride’s manufacturer, Funtime Thrill Rides, listed the maximum weight allowance as 286 pounds (130 kilograms). Sampson’s family filed suit against Funtime Thrill Rides, as well as Slingshot Group–the owner-operator of the ride in Florida–and ICON Park, the theme park entity that leased the space for the attraction, which had been open less than three months when the accident occurred.

More Details Just Revealed In Teen's Tragic Fall at ICON Park - Disney  Dining

Credit: Disney/ABC

“I wish this never happened,” Yarnell Sampson said. “But since we’re here, let’s make sure this never happens again to someone else’s child or even an adult.”

The lawsuit alleges the ride’s operators should have known that riders could be “subject to unreasonably dangerous and foreseeable risks, and that serious injury and death of the occupants in the ride could result.”

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!