Amusement park agrees to dismantle Orlando’s FreeFall ride after teen’s death

October 7, 2022

Following the death of a teenager at an Orlando amusement park earlier this year, the late Tire Sampson will be honored with a scholarship and the ride he fell off will be permanently closed.

The decision to dismantle the 400ft Orlando FreeFall attraction at ICON Park came after Sampson fell from his seat to his death on March 24 and his parents called on operator Orlando Slingshot to act quickly.

“We are devastated by Tyr’s death. We have listened to the wishes of Tire’s family and the community and have made the decision to remove the FreeFall,” Orlando Slingshot representative Ritchie Armstrong said in a written statement.

“In addition, Orlando Slingshot will honor Tire and his legacy in the classroom and on the football field by establishing a scholarship in his name,” Armstrong said. Sampson was a talented football player preparing to play in high school, CNN reported.

The group is developing a scholarship program in honor of the 14-year-old and the timeline for dismantling the ride “will be determined by the approval of all affected parties and regulatory entities,” according to a Thursday statement from Orlando Slingshot.

“Details of the scholarship are being worked out and further information will be shared in the future and after consultation with Tyr’s family,” the company said.

The ride lifted customers into the air and dropped them before coming to a controlled stop.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump is representing the father of the late teenager. And the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services investigated what led to the death of the black teenager from Missouri who was visiting Florida at the time.

As previously reported by the Florida Phoenix, an initial investigation into the fatal fall found the ride operator had made “manual adjustments to the ride” that made it unsafe, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki said. Fried, at a press conference in April.

Attorneys Crump and Bob Hilliard said in a joint statement Thursday after the ride was announced to close:

“While this announcement is long overdue, today’s news comes as a relief to Tire Sampson’s grieving father, who has been advocating for this since the day Tyr fell to his death. The Orlando Free Fall ride n “should never have been allowed to operate under these faulty conditions. Theme parks, their parent companies and regulators must do better to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening to another family.”

Meanwhile, Crump and Hilliard filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Orange County Circuit Court in late April, seeking damages for mental pain and the costs of funeral arrangements and medical care.

The lawsuit alleges that the operator and the other defendants failed “to design, construct, construct, test, maintain and inspect the Free Fall amusement park ride to prevent foreseeable injury and death to passengers at risk of falling. from the seat of the Free Fall Drop amusement ride.

The ride featured a harness for the seat but no seat belt, which the lawsuit said could have prevented Tyre’s death.

“While most freefall rides of this type have both a shoulder harness and a seatbelt, this FreeFall ride only had an over-the-shoulder harness to ‘secure’ riders,” indicates the trial.

“Fitting a seat belt that meets applicable standards on the FreeFall ride would cost approximately $22 per seat. All seats combined would cost around $660.

State Representative Geraldine Thompson, an Orange County Democrat, previously pointed out that a seatbelt installed on the ride “could have saved Tyre’s life.”

The manufacturer of the Orlando FreeFall – Funtime Thrill Rides – has spoken out against seat belts because of the restraint system in place, according to the 177-page “Operations and Maintenance Manual” published by FDACS.


The Florida Phoenix, a nonprofit news site with no ads and free to readers, covers state government and politics through a mix of in-depth stories, memoirs, and social media updates. on the latest events, editorial cartoons and progressive commentary. The Phoenix is ​​part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers.

Harold B. McConnell