Missouri teen who fell to death from Orlando ride 'not properly secured' in seat, investigation finds

Operator of Drop Tower FreeFall attraction made 'manual adjustments' that made ride 'unsafe,' officials say
Orlando Drop Tower at ICON Park, March 28
Posted at 2:23 PM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-18 14:23:33-04

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Missouri teen who tragically fell to his death from an Orlando amusement park ride in March was "not properly secured" in his seat, state officials announced Monday.

Tyre Sampson, 14, was visiting Central Florida with his friend's family when he fell from the Drop Tower FreeFall ride at ICON Park on March 24.

Tyre Sampson, died after falling from the FreeFall Drop Tower ride at Icon Park in Orlando in March 2022
Tyre Sampson died after falling from the FreeFall Drop Tower Ride at ICON Park in Orlando on March 24, 2022.

Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services hired a forensic engineer — Quest Engineering and Failure Analysis — to assist with the investigation. That company has determined the ride's operator made "manual adjustments" to the attraction, resulting in it being "unsafe."

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced Monday the adjustments were made to the sensor on the seat where Sampson was sitting, which allowed the harness restraint opening to be almost double that of the normal restraint opening range.

"These misadjustments 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 his seat," Fried said.


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State Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, said Monday the maximum weight limit for the Drop Tower FreeFall ride is 250 pounds per seat, but Sampson weighed "in excess of 300 pounds."

Thompson added the seat adjustment was made to presumably allow for larger riders, like Sampson, to fit in the seat.

"This was outside of the manufacturer's guidelines," Thompson said. "So whether it's due to training, lack of training, lack of signage as the rider approached the ride to be informed that if you're over this weight, you should not get on this ride. And so we want to answer all of those questions."

Fried said the attraction will remain closed indefinitely while the department continues its investigation.

Deputy stands outside Orlando Free Fall ride at ICON Park after 14-year-old died
An Orange County Sheriff's Office deputy stands guard outside the Orlando Free Fall ride at ICON Park, where a 14-year-old boy fell to his death March 24, 2022, in Orlando, Fla.

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At 430 feet tall, the Drop Tower FreeFall is billed as the world's tallest free-standing drop tower and is taller than the Statue of Liberty.

Sampson's family has hired high-profile attorney Benjamin Crump, who wants to know if negligence about Sampson's size or other factors played a role in the teen's death.