Orlando FreeFall: Florida lawmakers are asking to close a loophole after a teen dies on the ride

By | April 15, 2022

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A Florida lawmaker wants to eliminate what she calls a “loophole” in Florida law, which didn’t require the Orlando FreeFall to post a “maximum weight” sign outside of the ride.

Tire Sampson, 14, died after falling from the Orlando FreeFall ride on March 24 at ICON Park in Orlando, Florida 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.

Florida law allows amusement park ride manufacturers to determine what goes in and what does not go on the passenger restriction signage posted at the entrance to the ride.

Florida House Representative Geraldine Thompson, who represents parts of Orlando, said rides should be required by law to display height or weight restrictions.

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Tire Samson

Tire Samson
(FOX 35 Orlando)

“We should make sure there are signs as you approach the ride that indicate any height and weight restrictions,” Thompson said. “It should be absolutely mandatory so that by the time the consumer approaches the ride they are aware of the height and weight restrictions and family members and friends who have been with that person know what those restrictions are.”

Commenting on social media reports allegedly showing the “Rider Qualifications” sign in front of the Orlando FreeFall, Thompson called it “problematic.”

The sign reportedly lists the minimum height for one person to participate in the ride, but makes no mention of weight. The SlingShot group of companies declined to tell Fox News Digital if the ride had a weight limit prior to the teen’s death.

Additionally, Thompson said there must be a number of required training hours for amusement park ride operators, adding that the training component should not be a “check box” as it is currently.

“I think there has to be a certain amount of training, a certain number of hours of training that is required,” Thompson said. “For example, when I go to the hair salon, I know that the stylist has received over a hundred and something hours of training, and that gives me peace of mind that my hair might not fall out. But in this case example, we’re talking about life and death.

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The Orlando FreeFall drop tower at ICON Park in Orlando, Florida March 28, 2022. Tire Sampson, 14, was killed when he fell from the ride.

The Orlando FreeFall drop tower at ICON Park in Orlando, Florida March 28, 2022. Tire Sampson, 14, was killed when he fell from the ride.
(Orlando Sentinel via Getty)

“And I know there’s a form to be filled out and sent to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, but that shouldn’t just be a catch. You know, you tick the box and you send it. There should be a syllabus in terms of what the training will include and a badge and some sort of certification that the operators have completed the required training.”

Michael Haggard, representing Nekia Dodd, Tyre’s mother, said the Orlando FreeFall has a weight limit, but added that it “will not be disclosed to anyone”. Click Orlando.

Ken Martin, safety analyst and amusement park ride consultant, told Fox News Digital that a consistent code is needed to tell amusement parks which rider restrictions to display, in contrast to current Florida state law, which leaves the decision up to the manufacturer.

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Tourists enjoy the rides and amenities at ICON Park in Orlando, Fla., March 24, 2022.

Tourists enjoy the rides and amenities at ICON Park in Orlando, Fla., March 24, 2022.
(Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

Martin said that “multiple causes” led to the incident with Sampson, but said the ride operator should have seen that the shoulder belt was not down enough.

“I think there were several causes that led to this incident,” Martin said, “when Mr. Sampson got on the ride, the ride operator should have come around and tried to pull the shoulder belt over him and fasten it.” lock. We all saw that… We know the buttstock didn’t come down where it should be and that, you know, is a problem.”

An accident report filled out by an employee states that the seat belt was in a locked position after the tire fell out.

“FreeFall was coming… down the tower. When the magnets were activated, the patron came out of the seat,” one staffer wrote in the report. “The harness was still in a folded down and locked position when the ride stopped.”

Martin also said there should have been a scale outside of the ride, allowing Sampson to be weighed appropriately. He added that there are scales made specifically for amusement park rides that don’t reveal a person’s weight, but display the color green or red, which would indicate if they’re fit for the ride.

FLORIDA FREEFALL TEEN DEATH: DRIVING SAFETY EXPERT BELT ‘WHAT’S NOT TURNED ON PROPERLY

Tyree Sampson and Yarnell Sampson

Tyree Sampson and Yarnell Sampson
(FOX 35 Orlando)

Sampson’s father said in an interview with Orlando 35 that his son realized something didn’t feel right.

“When the journey started, he felt uncomfortable. He said, ‘This thing is moving.’ … That’s when he started freaking out,” Yarnell Sampson said FOX 35 Orlando. “He told his friends next to him… ‘If I can’t make it… please tell my mom and dad I love them.’ For him to say something like that, he must have felt something.”

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced that it has hired a forensic engineer from Quest Engineering to help investigate the FreeFall incident.

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The wheel at ICON Park is on the left, Orlando SlingShot is in the middle, and Orlando FreeFall is on the right.  A 14-year-old boy died after falling from the Orlando FreeFall ride on March 24.

The wheel at ICON Park is on the left, Orlando SlingShot is in the middle, and Orlando FreeFall is on the right. A 14-year-old boy died after falling from the Orlando FreeFall ride on March 24.
(Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried said potential rule changes could result from the investigation if warranted.

In a statement to Fox News Digital, Trevor Arnold, an attorney representing the operator of the Orlando FreeFall, said the operator is cooperating with State Departments in its investigation.

“Orlando Eagle Drop continues to cooperate at all levels with all state agencies and departments conducting their respective investigations,” Arnold said. “The commitment by Florida lawmakers Friday to bring about change in our industry is commendable. We are committed to working with those responsible to make a difference as public safety remains a top priority for Orlando Eagle Drop.

“On Monday April 4th we have employees from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on site. Given our respect for the ongoing investigation, we will continue to provide additional information as appropriate.”

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