Orlando FreeFall, ICON Park

We have been tracking the progress of the dismantling of the Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park and last week according to Spectrum News 13, Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park this work had begun. The process was expected to take up to a couple of weeks with the aim being to have it completely removed from the park by the anniversary of Tyre Sampson's death on March 24, 2023.

On March 22, according to this video posted by WKMG News 6 ClickOrlando we can see aerial footage of ICON Park where the final pieces of the Orlando FreeFall were being removed. 

We saw photos posted to twitter from Thrill Geek shows the beginning of the dismantling of the Orlando FreeFall. These are embedded below.

Orlando Slingshot, ride operator of the former Orlando FreeFall, have hired amusement park business, Ride Entertainment, to oversee and coordinate the dismantling and removal of the Orlando FreeFall ride. 

We also heard last week on the progress of The 'Tyre Sampson Act'. The 'Tyre Sampson Act' is a bill which has been put forward by Orlando Democratic Senator, Geraldine Thompson and aims to improve the safety of amusement park rides in Florida. Wmfe reported that on Monday March 13, the Act has won bipartisan approval in the Senate Agriculture Committee.

The bill addresses a number of changes to current procedures including:

  • commissioning certification for new rides
  • annual affidavits of safety compliance
  • signage that shows height and weight limits
  • new accident reporting requirements
  • unannounced inspections and training for operators

The committee also added a requirement for seat belts in addition to other restraints for rides that go up more than 100 feet. A companion bill would make state ride investigation materials exempt from the public record during investigations.

The exact details of the bill are being finalised and if passed this bill will take effect starting July 1, 2023.

Geraldine Thompson said in a closing statement on Monday that “In order to make sure that people are safe, and that the state of Florida signals that we consider the health, safety and welfare of people of our visitors, this bill helps us do that. And also, to say to the family that we recognize the value and the loss that they feel in terms of their son, and therefore, it is termed the ‘Tyre Sampson Act,’ and I ask for your favorable support on the bill,”.

We will continue to update you on The 'Tyre Sampson Act' as it progresses.

Orlando Free Fall, ICON Park
Image: Peyton Derrick

Back in December, The Orlando Sentinel, reported that Orlando Slingshot who had been issued with an administrative complaint indicating multiple state violations were made by their ride operators leading to Tyre Sampson’s fall at ICON Park, had filed for an administrative hearing to challenge the results of the investigation which has been conducted by The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Orlando Slingshot had taken issue with a number of allegations in the report including that it was aware that adjustments had been made to safety sensors on two harnesses and ride operators were told to seat "larger guests" there. Slingshot were also disputing that these were made outside the ride manufacturer's specifications.

The company also denied allegations of improper employee training and failure of employees to properly check the harness before dispatching the ride.

It has now been reported by WFTV9 that Orlando Slingshot has reached a settlement with the state which includes paying the agency a $250,000 fine and ensuring they will not operate the Drop Tower in Florida and will not reapply for a permit to do so in the future.

The attorney for Orlando Slingshot, Trevor Arnold, made a statement after the settlement was released:

“We are pleased to have resolved this matter with FDACS without the necessity of a formal hearing. As we publicly stated since October, we have been preparing for taking down the FreeFall ride once FDACS concluded its investigation. The final agreement we reached with FDACS allows us to proceed coordinating a timeline with all involved parties to take down the ride, which we expect will take several weeks.”

We now have confirmation that the Orlando FreeFall will be dismantled and this process will take several weeks.

As part of the investigation, we heard in December that the agriculture department has produced an updated legislative framework to address gaps in state ride safety laws. This includes nine proposals based on the investigation. 

Orlando Free Fall, ICON Park
Image: Theme Park Tourist

November 28 - In the last few days it has been reported by WLRN News that "The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is issuing an administrative complaint indicating multiple state violations made by the Sling Shot Group ride operators leading to Tyre Sampson’s fall at ICON Park." The fine they are seeking is $250,000.

During a press conference, Commissioner Niki Fried said “The department’s investigation has concluded that Tyre fell from the drop tower due to changes made by the ride operators,” “He was sitting in one of two seats where the proximity sensor was manually repositioned to allow a larger restraint opening than the ride’s other seats, and because his seat’s harness proximity sensor had been improperly adjusted the ride was allowed to commence even though it was unsafe and led directly to his fall.” 

Also during the press conference there were 9 changes outlined by Niki Fried to ensure the safety of attractions in the future in the aim to avoid a repeat of this tragedy. These included increasing signage which post the requirements for riders, increasing the safety checks during the permitting process, further maintenance checks and increased training for ride operators.

The news of this fine will likely come as little comfort to the family and friends of Tyre Sampson but it is positive to see that further safety precautions and procedures will be put into place as a result of the investigation.

October 7 - It was announced yesterday that the Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park will be removed permanently. The SlingShot Group has made the decision after the incident which took place on March 24 where Tyre Sampson tragically fell to his death. There has been an ongoing investigation into the incident with the initial report stating, "The cause of the subject accident was that Tyre Sampson was not properly secured in the seat primarily due to mis-adjustment of the harness proximity sensor,"

Richie Armstrong, an official with Orlando Slingshot said in a statement, "We are devastated by Tyre's death. We have listened to the wishes of Tyre's family and the community, and have made the decision to take down the FreeFall,". A representative from ICON Park said "Tyre's death is a tragedy that we will never forget. As the landlord, ICON Park welcomes and appreciates Orlando Slingshot's decision to take down the ride,"

The exact timeline for the taking down of the Orlando FreeFall is currently unknown. Richie Armstrong also announced that Orlando Slingshot plans to create a scholarship in Tyre Sampson's name to honor his "legacy in the classroom and on the football field,"

The 430-foot-tall Orlando FreeFall drop tower opened at ICON Park in December 2021. We are currently unsure of the fate of the Orlando Slingshot attraction which has also been closed since the incident in March. In June there were reports that the Slingshot group hoped to reopen this attraction at ICON Park in the future. We will update you on this when further details are announced. 

April 26 - It has been reported by the Orlando Sentinel that the family of Tyre Sampson have filed a lawsuit against a number of defendants after findings from The Quest Engineering & Failure Analysis report were released, confirming that the ride operator (SlingShot Group) made manual adjustments to the ride making it unsafe (see below). Other key points brought up refer to seatbelts which should have been fitted and the maximum weight for the attraction which was stated at 286 pounds in the operating manual should have been clearly displayed at the ride entrance. Sampson weighed over 350 pounds.

The defendants include The SlingShot Group, ICON Park, Keator Construction and ride manufacturers Funtime Handels GmbH and Gerstlauer Amusement Rides GmbH. 

The police investigation is still ongoing and at the time of writing no criminal charges have been brought forth.

April 19 - Florida Agriculture Commissioner, Nikki Fried has made a statement regarding the ongoing investigation into the incident on the Orlando FreeFall on March 24 at ICON PARK. In order to properly investigate a forensic engineer has been hired. The Quest Engineering & Failure Analysis report which has been released, confirms that the ride operator (SlingShot Group) made manual adjustments to the ride making it unsafe.

The report says, "The cause of the subject accident was that Tyre Sampson was not properly secured in the seat primarily due to mis-adjustment of the harness proximity sensor," "The mis-adjustment of the sensor allowed both safety lights to illuminate, improperly satisfying the ride's electronic safety mechanisms and allowing the ride to commence even though the ride was unsafe."

Nikki Fried continued to say that there may be other factors which will now be investigated and the how and why needs to be answered along with penalties and potential changes or rules and regulations needed to prevent any other tragic incidents from occuring in the future. While the investigation continues it has been confirmed that the Orlando FreeFall will remain closed indefinitely.

Officials from ICON Park released this statement:

"We are deeply troubled that the preliminary findings of the state's investigation indicate a sensor on the Orlando FreeFall attraction, which is owned and operated by the SlingShot Group, had been mis-adjusted after the sensor was originally secured in place. ICON Park is committed to providing a safe, fun experience for families. We will continue to support the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services with their ongoing investigation."

April 12 - There has been news this week that as the state and police investigations continue after the incident at ICON Park, the family of the 14-year old who tragically died plan to file a "negligence and product liability lawsuit" in the coming weeks. The Orlando Free Fall continues to be closed indefinitely at ICON Park while the investigation continues as does the Orlando SlingShot. In the last few weeks many have called for the Orlando Free Fall to be closed and torn down permanently following this incident. There hasn't been any further information as of yet given by ICON Park regarding the future of the Orlando Free Fall. 

March 25 - Orlando Free Fall at ICON park is closed indefinitely whilst an investigation takes place into the death of a 14-year old boy who fell from the attraction in the evening of March 24.

Orlando Free Fall which is billed as being the world's tallest free-standing drop tower opened in December 2021.

No details have so far been given as to how this incident could have taken place and the company that operates the drop tower is working with the authorities to determine what happened.

Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the boy who tragically died. We expect the Orlando Free Fall drop tower to be closed for a considerable time in order for the incident to be properly investigated. 



There should also be a requirement that "No ride shall be adjusted (i.e., tampered with) in the field by anyone but the manufacturer's authorized representative, and that such adjustments be approved in writing by a licensed professional engineer. "

The purpose of this is to prevent some "yahoo" (i.e., anyone from the teenager left to operate the ride on his own to the 50 year old owner who has no technical training whatsoever to the guy who thinks he's a qualified engineer but who isn't) from tampering with the ride and thus causing a severe hazard to the public.

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