Officials said on Monday that the death of a teen on an Orlando, Florida amusement park ride was due to operator error. The error is suspected to be the primary contributing factor of a 14-year-old boy who slipped out of his seat on a drop-tower ride and fell to his death last month.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nicole “Nikki” Fried announced the findings of a forensic engineer’s field investigation report on the March 24 incident that killed Tyre Sampson of St. Louis, Missouri, at Orlando’s ICON Park. Fried was accompanied by State Representative Geraldine Thompson (D-FL) during a news update.
Fried said, “The report showed the operator of the park’s Freefall ride made manual adjustments to the ride resulting in it being unsafe.” The ride is the world’s tallest free-standing tower drop tower at a height of 430 feet.
The report by Quest Engineering & Failure Analysis, Inc., said manual manipulations were made to the seat Samson was sitting in to allow the harness restraint opening to be loosened, apparently to accommodate the more than 300-pound teenager. Fried said the harness restraint opening “was almost double that of a normal restraint opening range.”
“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,” Trevor Arnold, an attorney for the ride’s operator, Orlando Slingshot, said in a statement.
ICON Park said in a statement, “We are deeply troubled that the preliminary findings of the State’s investigation indicate a sensor on the Orlando Freefall attraction, which is owned and operated by the SlingShot Group, had been mis-adjusted after the sensor was originally secured in place. ICON Park is committed to providing a safe, fun experience for families. We will continue to support the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services with their ongoing investigation.
Fried said, “Now that they know what mechanically took place, they will next seek to find out how and why, before they assess what penalties may come.”
Arnold said, “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.
The ride has been closed since Sampson’s death, and it will remain closed “indefinitely,” Fried said on Monday.