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  • Writer's pictureGotta Go Orlando

Orlando FreeFall owner reaches settlement with the State following Tyre Sampson's Death

Today, Friday, February 17, 2023 it was announced that the Florida Department of Agriculture has reached an agreement with the owner and operator of the Orlando FreeFall attraction at ICON Park where 14-year-old Tyre Sampson's fell to his death in June last year.

According to documents released today, Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot will NOT operate the Drop Tower anywhere within Florida and will NOT reapply for a permit to do so in the future for this ride or any similar style of ride.

The state have also made it clear that there is no prohibition on Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot from dismantling the Orlando FreeFall ride.

It's interesting to note that Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot had already stated last year that they would be dismantling the attraction at ICON Park following the end of the investigations.

The family of Tyre Sampson have already made it clear that they want the ride to be dismantled before March 24, the first anniversary of the the teen's death.

Also, the agreement to not operate the ride only applies to the Orlando FreeFall, not any of the other numerous rides that Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot operates in Central Florida.

As well as agreeing not to operate the ride in Florida, the owners have already paid the fine of $250,000 that the state announced on November 22 last year, when it was revealed that the state had filled an administrative complaint alleging multiple violations of Florida law in relation to the tragic death of the teenager Tyre Sampson.

Orlando Free Fall ICON Park Orlando Florida

Tyre Sampson, 14, tragically died during his spring break trip earlier this year to Orlando, when he fell from the Orlando FreeFall ride at Icon Park.

On November 22, Florida officials announced an administrative complaint alleging multiple violations of Florida law in relation to the tragic death of the teenager totalling $250,000.

Sampson, a 14-year-old from Missouri, fell from the ride on March 24, sparking an ongoing series of lawsuits and investigations surrounding the tragic incident.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried immediately launched an investigation into the accident, and an independent forensic engineering firm hired in the investigation into the fatal fall found the operator of the thrill ride manually adjusted the sensors in the seat he was in, which made the ride unsafe.

Fried said that the operator of the Orlando FreeFall made “manual adjustments to the ride resulting in it being unsafe” and allowed the harness’ restraint opening to be “almost double” of the normal opening range.

“These misadjustments allow the safety lights to illuminate, improperly satisfying the ride’s electronic safety mechanisms that allow the ride to operate even though Mr. Sampson was not properly secured in the seat,” Fried said following the report’s release. “As noted in the report, there are many other potential contributing factors that may have played a role in the incident. And that is what our department is continuing to investigate.”

An autopsy report revealed Tyre Sampson weighed 383 pounds and according to a manual produced by the manufacturer of the ride, Funtime Thrill Rides, the maximum weight allowance for Orlando FreeFall is listed as 286 pounds.

Weeks after the boy’s fatal fall, attorneys for his family formally filed a lawsuit against Funtime Thrill Rides, the manufacturer; Slingshot Group, the owner-operator in Florida; and ICON Park, which leased the space.

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.”

In light of the investigations, lawmakers released a draft proposal to strengthen the state’s safety regulations for amusement park rides, calling for stricter signage requirements, training, safety systems and random inspections.

Orlando FreeFall Death

Tuesday November 22, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and State Senator Geraldine Thompson held a press conference, sharing new details regarding the investigation.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said that her department has issued an administrative complaint against Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot, LLC, alleging multiple violations of Florida law in relation to the investigative findings.

The investigation into Sampson’s death found that a safety sensor had been adjusted on two of the attraction’s seats, which allowed a gap of up to 7 inches between the harness and seat to accommodate larger patrons.

According to Tuesday’s complaint, the gap set for the remainder of the ride’s seats was only 3.33 inches.

The investigation also revealed that the ride attendants were specifically instructed to seat larger guests in the two adjusted seats.

Fried announced that the manipulation of the sensors allowed to the ride to start and “led directly to his fall.”

Additionally, the ride’s maintenance manual set a weight restriction of 286 pounds for riders, Sampson weighed approximately 383 pounds.

“There was intent to change the sensors on there. Whether it rises to criminal intent will be up to the discretion of not only the sheriff’s office but the ultimate prosecutors of that county, if they so choose, to bring criminal charges,” Fried commented.

The investigation also showed the attendants lacked proper training for the attraction.

“The department’s investigation revealed there was minimal training conducted on the ride.

A training manual did not exist,” she said. “Neither of the attendants nor the operator had read or seen the manufacturer manual, nor had an operating document been provided to the attendants or operators (who) were on duty.”

The complaint also lists other issues that officials say contributed to Sampson’s death, including that loading procedures were not followed when placing the teen in the ride, the ride’s operator was “an unsupervised trainee who had been on the job for only three days", and records of daily inspections and maintenance were “deficient".

Fried said the administrative complaint was submitted with a total of six counts against Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot, LLC, with each carrying a fine of at least $10,000.

In all, the complaint is seeking a total fine of at least $250,000, calls for the company to cease and desist specified activities, and would revoke the Orlando FreeFall’s permit.

Fried also said that she has instructed her staff to forward their findings to the Orange County Sheriff's Office to consider criminal charges.

State Sen. Geraldine Thompson said the very first bill that she is going to file as a member of the Florida Senate is the ‘Tyre Sampson Law.’

"We had a 14-year-old young man with a promising future," Thompson said. "He was a five-star athlete and he fell out of this ride because things were adjusted that were contrary to the directions of the manufacturer."

Thompson commented that the fine being imposed is to show that there are consequences to not following laws in the state of Florida.

Since the tragic death, state officials have been planning to propose legislation to “help prevent the kind of tragedy that happened to Tyre from never happening again.”

State Sen. Geraldine Thompson said the legislation, which she said would be called the Tyre Sampson Law, would address multiple issues, including signage, inspections, training and more.

“When the millions of people who visit Florida come to this state, we want them to know that there is oversight, that there is accountability, that there are inspections, that there are requirements for training,” she commented.

Following the November 22 report, in December, Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot requested an “administrative hearing” to challenge the fines and penalties.

Orlando FreeFall Death


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