Investigation Into 14-Year-Old’s Death at Florida’s Icon Park Focuses on Safety Harness

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Accident report filed by ride operator says Tyre Sampson’s harness was secure; attorney for the boy’s family disputes the assertion

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Attorney Bob Hilliard said the harness wasn’t secured and the seat Tyre was had issues that prior riders were in about.

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“Video recordings of the event show unequivocally that Tyre’s harness was not locked down,” Mr. Hilliard said in an interview Tuesday. He added that two witnesses who previously rode the ride in the same seat as Tire notified ride operators that the seat’s harness wasn’t working properly.

The Orlando FreeFall is owned and operated by the Slingshot Group of Companies, which operates attractions throughout Florida. A Slingshot Group representative was not immediately available for comment.

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The incident remains under investigation by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“We hope the subsequent findings will be able to inform us all as to how this tragedy occurred and will precipitate any changes necessary to better protect patrons of amusement rides in Florida,” Nikki Fried, commissioner for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said Monday.

Footage of the incident shows witnesses screamed and riders asked park staff to get them off the ride. One crew member is heard asking other crew members if they had made sure that the boy was properly strapped in, to which they responded that they had, according to a video verified by Storyful, a social-media research company owned by News Corp.,

the parent company of Businesshala.

The Orlando FreeFall, which opened late last year, was inspected and passed state regulator’s checks in December 2021, according to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ inspection report. The department typically inspects permanent amusement rides, such as the Orlando FreeFall, twice a year at state parks that have fewer than 1,000 employees.

Icon Park said Monday that Slingshot Group should suspend the Orlando FreeFall and another ride operated by the group until the rides are proven to be safe by the authorities.

“We rely on our tenants to be experts at what they do,” Icon Park said in a statement.

A related for the Slingshot Group said last week the ride’s operators are cooperating with authorities and that Orlando FreeFall is closed until further notice.

The Orlando FreeFall ride, which seats 30 people, is the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower, according to Icon Park.

“Once the ride vehicle reaches the top, it’ll tilt forward 30 degrees and face the ground for a brief moment before free falling nearly 400 feet at speeds reaching over 75 mph,” a press release announcing the ride said.

Tyre, from Missouri, was an 8th-grade football player and an A student, said his family’s lawyers. He was visiting Icon Park with his football team, the lawyers said.

“Needless to say, his family is absolutely devastated,” said attorney Ben Crump, one of the lawyers representing Tyre’s family. “A fun theme park visit with his football team should not have ended in tragedy.”

Write to Omar Abdel-Baqui at [email protected]


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