Florida amusement park ride to be dismantled after Missouri teenager dies

A towering ride in the tourist district of central Florida, where a Missouri teenager died, will be demolished because of the crash, the owner said Thursday.

The decision to remove the 400-plus-foot ride, which opened last December in Orlando’s International Drive neighborhood, was directly linked to the death of 14-year-old Tire Sampson last March, the owner said. Orlando Slingshot, in a statement.

Sampson, who lived near St. Louis, Missouri, was visiting Orlando over spring break when he died of a fall. The company also said it plans to create a scholarship in the teenager’s name.

“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 remove the FreeFall,” said Ritchie Armstrong, an Orlando Slingshot manager.

An autopsy showed Tire Sampson suffered numerous broken bones and internal injuries in the fall, which was ruled an accidental death. It showed Sampson weighed 383 pounds, well over the driver’s manual weight limit of 287 pounds.

An initial report from outside engineers hired by the Florida Department of Agriculture said the ride’s sensors had been manually adjusted to double the size of the opening for restraints on two seats, preventing the teenager to be properly secured. The report said there were many other “potential contributions” to the crash and that a full review of the ride’s design and operations was needed.

Tire Sampson’s family has filed a lawsuit against the ride’s owner, manufacturer and owner, claiming they were negligent and failed to provide a safe ride.

“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 Tire died,” Ben Crump and Bob Hilliard said, attorneys for Sampson’s father, in a statement.

No timeline was given for when the ride will be dismantled.

First published on October 6, 2022 / 5:21 PM

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Harold B. McConnell