Orlando drop tower operator adjusted sensors in seat teen fell from, making ride unsafe, report shows

Tyre Sampson, 14, fell to his death at ICON Park on March 24

Memorial at ICON Park ride where 14-year-old boy fell from drop tower. (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – An independent forensic engineering firm hired in the investigation into a teen’s fatal fall from an Orlando drop tower found the operator of the thrill ride manually adjusted the sensors in the seat he was in, which made the ride unsafe.

WKMG-TV in Orlando reports that Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried announced Quest Engineering & Failure Analysis’ findings, in the investigation into the death of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson. The firm’s 14-page report determined the ride itself did not have an electrical or mechanical failure but a manual adjustment in the seat Sampson was in allowed the ride to operate even when it was unsafe.

READ REPORT: Quest Engineering and Failure Analysis’ findings

Fried said the operator of the Orlando FreeFall made “manual adjustments to the ride resulting in it being unsafe” and allowed the harness’ restraint opening to be “almost double” of the normal opening range.

The report shows the harness sensor of the seat Sampson was in was “manually loosened, adjusted, and tightened to allow a restraint opening of near 7 inches.”

During the ride’s descent and slowing, the boy slipped through the gap, “which may have expanded several inches due to inherent seat and harness compliance,” the report said.

“These misadjustments allow the safety lights to illuminate, improperly satisfying the ride’s electronic safety mechanisms that allow the ride to operate even though Mr. Sampson was not properly secured in the seat,” Fried said. “As noted in the report, there are many other potential contributing factors that may have played a role in the incident. And that is what our department is continuing to investigate.”

While these other factors are being investigated, Fried said the Orlando FreeFall will be closed indefinitely. The department will continue its investigation to determine whether there will need to be any rule or legislative changes, she said.

Fried’s office released pages of state statute and the permitting and inspection requirements for rides in Florida after the boy’s death. The list includes testing, signage, and training -- all of which the investigation is expected to scrutinize. FDACS released the official “stop operation order,” which became effective a day after Sampson died.

The stop order said the FreeFall ride is “considered an immediate serious danger to public health, safety, and welfare and may not be operated for patron use until it has passed a subsequent inspection.”

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.