• Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

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Florida ride where teen fell to his death is ‘serious danger to public health,’ officials say

The Florida amusement park ride where a teenager fell to his death last month is an “immediate serious danger to public health,” state officials said in an order closing the ride.

The order from the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which was released to the public Monday, formally closed the Free Fall ride on March 25, the day after the incident at ICON Park in Orlando.

Tyre Sampson, a 14-year-old boy from Missouri, slid out of his seat and fell to his death while the drop tower-style ride plunged in front of horrified onlookers.

The order closing the ride said the Free Fall “is considered an immediate serious danger to public health, safety, and welfare, and may not be operated for patron use until it has passed a subsequent inspection by or at the direction of the Department.”

The order was addressed to Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot LLC, which owns the Free Fall.

The company’s other ICON Park ride was also closed shortly after the fatal accident. When it opened, the Free Fall’s nearly 400-foot drop was billed as the highest in the world.

Photos and video posted online apparently show that Tyre — who was over 6½ feet tall — was not fully buckled into the ride, with a safety harness sitting far above those of the other riders.

People visit a makeshift memorial for Tyre Sampson outside the Orlando Free Fall ride at ICON Park in Orlando, Fla., on March 27. Tyre, a teenager visiting from Missouri on spring break, fell to his death on the ride.
People visit a makeshift memorial for Tyre Sampson outside the Orlando Free Fall ride at ICON Park in Orlando, Fla., on March 27. Tyre, a teenager visiting from Missouri on spring break, fell to his death on the ride.Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP

In video of the incident obtained by NBC News, a voice is heard asking: “Why doesn’t this have the little clicky click to it, like the seat belt?”

As the ride lifts off, a voice from the ground is heard shouting: “Hey, did you check your seat belt on the left side? Seat belt! Seat belt!”

Tyre was visiting Florida for spring break with his football team. He was a straight-A student who “had a bright future ahead” and was never in trouble, his uncle Carl Sampson said.

Michael Haggard, one of Sampson family’s attorneys, told NBC affiliate WESH of Orlando that he is focused on the apparent absence of a legally required declaration of the ride’s maximum rider weight.

Tyre is reported to have weighed around 300 pounds. The ride’s maximum rider weight is around 285 pounds.

WESH reported that no maximum rider weight limit is displayed anywhere on Free Fall’s signs — only a maximum height.

Lawyer Benjamin Crump, who visited the ride Monday, told reporters that Tyre’s family sees his death as “preventable.”

“Other than George Floyd’s tragic torture video, I think this is the worst tragedy captured on video that I have ever seen,” Crump said.

As attention turns to the restraint system used to keep riders buckled into the Free Fall, Florida officials said Friday there is no direct federal or state oversight of what thrill-ride manufacturers put in their manuals dictating safety measures.