Orlando FreeFall: Florida lawmaker 'very concerned' after report shows teen was 'not properly secured'

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A Florida lawmaker tells Fox News Digital that she’s “very concerned” after a state-funded engineering report on the Orlando FreeFall came to a conclusion that the teenager who fell off the ride was “not properly secured” in his seat due to modifications made to the seat.

Tyre Sampson, 14, died after falling off of the Orlando FreeFall ride at ICON Park in Orlando, Florida, on March 24. An operating manual for the Orlando FreeFall states that the maximum passenger weight is just over 286 pounds. Sampson was 6 feet, 5 inches tall and reportedly weighed 360 pounds.

The report commissioned by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, conducted by Quest Engineering, released its field investigation report on Monday, which states that a “proximity sensor” for the harness being used by Sampson was “manually loosened,” which meant that Sampson wasn’t properly secured in his seat.

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Amusement park visitors were in shock after seeing a teenage boy die after falling off of one of the park's rides.

Amusement park visitors were in shock after seeing a teenage boy die after falling off of one of the park’s rides.
(Fox 35)

Florida House of Representative member Geraldine Thompson, who represents parts of Orlando, told Fox News Digital she is “very concerned” that adjustments were made after state inspectors looked at the ride in December 2021.

“I was very concerned that adjustments were made after the state inspectors arrived and after the permit had been issued,” Thompson said. 

Nikki Fried, the Florida commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, said during a Monday press conference that the maladjustments made to the seat’s proximity sensor allowed the safety light to aluminate, allowing Sampson to ride even though he was not “properly secured in the seat.”

Tyre Sampson

Tyre Sampson
(FOX 35 Orlando)

“These maladjustments allowed the safety lights to illuminate – improperly satisfying 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 report confirms that manual adjustments had been made to the sensor for the seat in question that allowed the harness’ restraint opening to be almost double that of the normal restraints opening range.”

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The report states that the harness which Sampson occupied had a proximity sensor which “was manually loosened, adjusted, and tightened to allow a restraint opening of near 7 inches.”

Normally, the range is around three inches, according to the report.

Thompson said she’s also concerned because the SlingShot Group of Companies, which operates the Orlando FreeFall, also operates  other amusement park rides across Florida.

Tourists enjoy the rides and amenities at ICON Park in Orlando on Thursday, March 24, 2022. International Drive, long considered a tourist-centered stretch between Orlando's major theme parks, has thrived during the pandemic by rebranding itself as a place for locals to gather too. 

Tourists enjoy the rides and amenities at ICON Park in Orlando on Thursday, March 24, 2022. International Drive, long considered a tourist-centered stretch between Orlando’s major theme parks, has thrived during the pandemic by rebranding itself as a place for locals to gather too. 
(Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

She said that there will need to be a heavy look taken at the training regulations for ride operators.

“I think that there should be a minimum number of hours, there ought to be certification, and any time any adjustment is made to a ride, it has to be reported to the state,” Thompson said. “And that would trigger a re-inspection.”

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The Orlando Free Fall drop tower in ICON Park in Orlando, Florida, is pictured on March 28, 2022. Tyre Sampson, 14, was killed when he fell from the ride last week.

The Orlando Free Fall drop tower in ICON Park in Orlando, Florida, is pictured on March 28, 2022. Tyre Sampson, 14, was killed when he fell from the ride last week.
(Orlando Sentinel via Getty)

Thompson also said that inspections for amusement park rides need to be quarterly, and said there’s “a lot” that needs to be looked at following the Orlando FreeFall incident.

In a statement to Fox News Digital, Trevor Arnold, an attorney representing the operator of the Orlando FreeFall, said that it has cooperated with the state during its initial phase of the investigation, and will continue to do so.

“Orlando Slingshot has fully cooperated with the State during the initial phase of its investigation, and we will continue to do so until it has officially concluded. All protocols, procedures and safety measures provided to us by the manufacturer of the ride were followed.  Today’s report suggests a full review of the ride’s design, safety, operation, restraint mechanisms and history – which of course we welcome.   We look forward to working with the Florida legislature to implement change in the industry, as the safety of our patrons is always our top priority,” Arnold said.

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The ride has been closed since the incident happened on March 24, and depending on the outcome of the department’s investigation, it could be closed for good, Fried said during a previous press conference.

Fox News’ Jon Brown contributed to this report

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