Teen who died after fall from drop tower exceeded weight limit for ride, report says

Seat was locked entire time, ride did not malfunction, report says

State inspectors investigating ride at ICON Park, which passed initial permit inspection in December

ORLANDO, Fla. – State investigators have released nearly 200 pages on the inner workings of the free fall ride in Orlando.

The report said 14-year-old Tyre Sampson, a teen visiting from Missouri who fell to his death last week, should have never been on ICON Park’s ride in the first place., WKMG reports.

According to a manual produced by the manufacturer of the ride, Funtime Thrill Rides, the maximum weight allowance for Orlando FreeFall is listed as 286 pounds. Tyre Sampson’s coach said the teen weighed 320.

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The manual also describes “specific limitations for large people.”

“Be careful when seeing if large guests fit into the seats,” the manual reads. “Check that they fit within the contours of the seat and the bracket fits properly. If this is not so, do not let this person ride.”

A private ride safety inspector based in Virginia said it was clear that Sampson was too big.

“I do not care how athletic a person is, or how strong they are. There is no way a person who weighs that amount subjected to -2 G’s can hold themselves in the ride,” Martin said. “I know and have seen pictures of the ride that indicate there are no seat belts on the ride, which would classify as one redundant safety system.”

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New records released by the FDACS show that the General Manager of Funtime Thrill Rides, Hannes Lackner, advocated for no seat belts on Orlando FreeFall.

The preliminary accident report confirmed that the seat was locked in place and the new report said that the ride did not malfunction. It’s not clear if Sampson fit the contours of the seat or if the bracket fit properly.

“When the magnets engaged, the patron came out of the seat. Harness was still in a down a locked position when the ride stopped,” the report reads.

The records were released by FDACS as ICON Park called on their tenant, the Slingshot Group, to suspend both Orlando FreeFall and Orlando SlingShot until the rides were deemed safe by investigators.

There are at least five free fall rides in the world using a model manufactured by Funtime Thrill Rides. Both of the U.S. ones, located in Dollywood and ICON Park, are closed pending investigations.

20-year-old Montrey Williams was there that night and recounted the moments after the teen fell to WKMG.

“Just seeing that replaying over and over in my head, like, it’s really rough,” the Orlando native said.

“My first reaction, like, it felt like a dream. I didn’t think it was real until I actually walked up to him,” he said.

Williams told News 6 that he was with his girlfriend standing in front of the ride as they watched guests get on.

“As far as the workers, they did not do their job correctly whatsoever. Nobody walked around to see if everybody was securely, you know, locked in,” Williams assured.

There is a growing memorial for a 14-year-old boy who died after falling from a drop tower at ICON Park along International Drive.

About the Authors:

Carianne Luter is a social media producer for News4Jax and has worked at Channel 4 since December 2015. She graduated from the University of North Florida with a communication degree.

Award-winning investigative reporter Merris Badcock joined the News 6 team in October 2020. Merris is the recipient of a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award, a Suncoast Regional Emmy Award, four Suncoast Emmy Regional nominations, and two first-place Florida Association of Broadcast Journalists’ Awards.