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Florida officials seek answers after 14-year-old's death on Orlando amusement park ride

Tyre Sampson died last week on Drop Tower Free Fall ride
Nikki Fried, April, 1, 2022, speaks about Orlando amusement park ride death
Posted at 10:48 AM, Apr 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-01 17:34:16-04

ORLANDO, Fla. — State officials said Friday an investigation is ongoing to find out how a teen died on a ride at a Central Florida amusement park last week.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried held a Friday morning news conference to discuss her department's regulatory program while investigators look into the tragedy.

Tyre Sampson, 14, a Missouri boy who was visiting Central Florida with his friend's family, lost his life on 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.

"We are pulling back lots of layers here, and we’re not going to jump to any conclusions until the facts are known and information is provided to us because that would not be fair to the family," Fried said Friday.

RELATED: Fried wants more time before taking action on ride safety

The commissioner said the state has hired a forensic engineer with Quest Engineering and Failure Analysis to specifically assist with the investigation.

"These engineers are experts in the field, who have previously worked with the department following the Sand Blaster incident in Daytona Beach in 2018, which our department was able to shut down operations following our investigation," Fried said.

Orlando Drop Tower at ICON Park, March 28
Drop Tower FreeFall ride at ICON Park in Orlando, Florida.

She reiterated her department's push to find out how the teen lost his life on the ride but wouldn't "jump to any conclusions" before the investigation was complete.

"We are fully committed to finding out what happened so we can better prevent such tragedies from happening in the future," Fried said.

Fried was joined by FDACS Division of Consumer Services Director Rick Kimsey and Florida House Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, for the news conference.

Kimsey said that since there are no federal regulations on rides like the FreeFall, the state of Florida is one of only 29 states that has created amusement ride safety protocols.

"Florida law and department rule require some of the most strict and comprehensive inspection processes in the country," Kimsey said.

Thompson said she has been in touch with high-profile attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing the victim's family.

"(The family) is not interested so much in fixing blame as fixing the problem, and I'll be working with them to fix the problem," Thompson said. "If there is legislative action that's needed to give more authority to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, that's what we'll be focused on."

The FreeFall ride is shut down indefinitely while the investigation is ongoing.

Representatives from ICON Park released the following statement Friday about the case:

"We commend the diligence and thoroughness that Commissioner Fried and the team at the Florida Department of Agriculture have shown as they investigate the operation of the Slingshot Group's Orlando FreeFall ride.

ICON Park looks forward to working with elected officials, regulators, and the amusement industry to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again. 

As the landlord at ICON Park, our mission is to provide safe family entertainment. We rely on our tenants to be experts at what they do.

In the interests of public safety, ICON Park has demanded that the SlingShot Group suspend not only the operation of Orlando FreeFall, but also the operation of Orlando SlingShot."