Orlando FreeFall: Crews work to dismantle 400-foot ride nearly one year after teenager died from falling off
Almost one year after 14-year-old Tyre Sampson tragically fell off the 400-foot-tall Orlando FreeFall ride, crews are working to dismantle the attraction.
Sampson died on March 24, 2022 after falling off the Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park in Orlando, Florida. An operating manual for the Orlando FreeFall states that the maximum passenger weight for the ride is just over 286 lbs. Sampson was 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighed 330 pounds, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
A report released by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services places the blame on the seat’s harness, which had a proximity sensor that "was manually loosened, adjusted, and tightened to allow a restraint opening of near 7 inches." Normally, the range is around 3 inches, according to the report.
Nikki Fried, former Florida commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, said that maladjustments made to the seat's proximity sensor triggered the safety light, incorrectly allowing Sampson to ride even though he was not "properly secured in the seat."
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Crews were at ICON Park on Thursday as they take down the ride, which has been closed since the incident happened. The ride maker, Funtime Handels of Austria and Gerstlauer of Germany, performed a "final inspection" of the ride in late February.
Orlando Slingshot, which operates the Orlando FreeFall, announced in October 2022 that the ride would be torn down.
Sampson's mother, Nekia Dodd, was in Orlando, Florida on Wednesday to announce a settlement between herself, ICON Park, and the owner of the Orlando FreeFall ride.
Dodd says that she wants no remnants of the ride remaining, stating that she wants no parent to go through a similar experience, according to FOX 35.
"My son took his last breath on this ride, so it's heartbreaking, it's devastating, it's a feeling I hope no other parent will ever have to go through after this ride comes down," Dodd said. "When he passed, I wasn't there for him."
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Sampson's mother also pleaded for rides which go over 100 feet in the air to include a seatbelt and harness.
A spokesperson for Orlando Slingshot, which operates the Orlando FreeFall, told Fox News Digital that efforts to take down the ride could go into next week.
Commenting on the settlement, Trevor Arnold, an attorney for Orlando Slingshot, told Fox News Digital, "We are pleased that a settlement has been reached. We also continue to support Sen. Thompson in her efforts to make the ‘Tyre Sampson bill’ state law."
ICON Park said in a statement that it agrees with the decision to tear down the ride.
"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," a spokesperson for the amusement park said.