A teen’s fatal fall last week at an Orlando amusement park has sparked a senator to urge Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried to permanently shut down the Orlando FreeFall ride and “take swift action for the critical safety of others.”
State Sen. Randolph Bracy, a Democrat representing part of Orange County, sent a letter to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on Tuesday, addressing the incident at ICON Park that took the life of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson after he fell from the ride as it was coming down.
The state agency has the responsibility to “inspect all amusement rides in Florida, except for those at large parks that have more than 1,000 employees,” according to a press release.
“I also request that the Department close the Orlando FreeFall ride permanently,” Bracy said in the letter. “No human being should experience the plight of tragedy that could have been avoided by ensuring our amusement parks are operating at the highest levels of safety and care.”
Erin Moffet, spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Agriculture, told the Florida Phoenix in an email Wednesday that the agency is still actively investigating the tragic incident. “With the investigation ongoing, the Department will not be commenting further beyond what was released Monday,” Moffet said.
Videos emerged on social media showing the horrific accident that took place around 11 p.m. on March 24. Footage shows the ride dropping down and then Sampson falling from his seat.
“As Mr. Sampson’s family, friends, and all those who cared for him mourn, I am strongly urging the Department to take swift action for the critical safety of others,” Bracy said in the letter. “The premature death of 14-year old Mr. Tyre Sampson is unconscionable and an avoidable tragedy witnessed by many here, and across the nation.”
Among safety measures mentioned in the letter, Bracy said that the state agency must “reexamine and implement minimum safety requirements for fixed amusement parks, implement secondary or additional safety restraints to quickly respond to mechanical and human errors.”
Bracy added that the state agency should implement “more robust peer training and safety protocols to increase accountability by amusement park operators.”
Following the death of Sampson, the Orlando FreeFall ride closed “pending a full investigation,” ICON Park said in a written statement Friday.
In a separate statement Monday, ICON park called on the SlingShot Group – which owns the Orlando FreeFall – to immediately suspend its other ride called the Orlando SlingShot “until the attractions are proven to be safe by authorities.”
FDACS released an accident report Monday, stating that Sampson died from “multiple injuries and trauma” and described more details of the accident. The report revealed that the “patron came out of the seat” as the ride was coming down and that Sampson’s “harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped.”
The Orlando Free Fall passed an initial inspection conducted by FDACS on December 20, 2021, “and no deficiencies were noted at the initial permit inspection,” according to records released by the state agency.
Fried offered her condolences in a written statement Monday. “Words cannot express the sorrow felt by the tragic loss of such a young man, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this unimaginably difficult time,” Fried said.
“The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is actively investigating the incident, along with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, and 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.”
–Isaac Morgan, Florida Phoenix