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Accident on Orlando Drop Ride Claims Young Tourist

March 25, 2022, 9:13 PM · A 14-year-old perished late yesterday after falling from the Orlando Free Fall attraction in International Drive's ICON Park.

The 430-foot drop ride opened in December, billed as the world's tallest free-standing tower drop ride. ICON Park also is home to The Wheel at ICON Park, the 400-foot observation wheel that's the main landmark between Universal and Disney off Interstate 4.

The boy, whom local law enforcement identified as Tyre Sampson of Missouri, apparently slipped from his seat on the ride after its main drop. Riders' seats tilt forward 30 degrees at the top of the tower before dropping to a point about 45 feet off the ground, from which the seats descend slowly back to the load platform. According to eyewitness video reviewed by a local TV station, that is the point where Sampson slipped from his seat.

The Funtime ride uses over-the-shoulder safety restraints.

An investigation is underway. Slingshot Group, which operated the Orlando Free Fall attraction, issued this statement: "We are heartbroken with the incident that took the life of one of our guests. We extend our condolences and deepest sympathy to his family and friends. We are working with the Sheriff’s Office and ride officials on a full investigation. The Orlando FreeFall will be closed until further notice."

The Orange County Sheriff's office provided the following details, "On March 24, 2022 at 11:12 p.m., deputies responded to 8433 International Drive (Orlando Free Fall) for a 911 emergency. Witnesses on scene reported that someone had fallen from the ride. A 14-year-old male was transported to the hospital, where he died from his injuries. This death investigation is in its very early stages."

Update: An NBC News report quotes the Sampson' uncle saying that the 14-year-old was visiting Orlando with his football team and that he "stood 6-feet-6 and weighed about 280 pounds." That certainly raises questions about maximum size effectiveness for safety restraints.

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Replies (27)

March 25, 2022 at 10:25 PM

It's not even that long ago since an employee died inspecting the Starflyer either.

ICON Park needs to do a major safety overhaul to their operations, otherwise they'll never survive the PR windfall that is sure to follow.

March 25, 2022 at 10:26 PM

I also don't want to point fingers on who may be responsible because there could be so many different factors at play in this situation but I've talked to multiple people who have ridden this attraction and said how the employees would goof around and most of the time did not check the restraint after it was pulled down into position.

I hate when incidents like this occur, it truly shakes the whole industry. These rides and attractions are meant to provide a route of enjoyment and excitement, not scare or deter people from experiencing it. I hope whatever issue that caused this is fixed and resolved and that it'll never happen again.

March 25, 2022 at 11:35 PM

@Postcott

You reminded me of the time I went to Scream at Magic Mountain and it the restraint didn’t clicked. I had to call a ride ops to make sure my seat worked(I didn’t wanted to be launched off the coaster) but the ride ops seemed more annoyed of my concern than actually making sure if I was properly secured.

March 26, 2022 at 1:22 AM

I've been on the tower a couple of times, and the jolt (at 50-45ft) when the carriage is quickly deaccelerated really hits hard. It's the one thing I always mention when talking about the ride. Slowing down rapidly from 75mph, puts a huge amount of stress onto those OTSR's, and with the young man being a large person, that force could have been enough to eject him, especially as from the pictures, he's close to what I would think is the last operational click.

I told my friend after I rode it I was surprised they hadn't got any buckles holding the OTSR to the actual seat. My guess is they will install these before it's allowed to reopen.

It's such a tragedy. I found the ride to be perfectly safe, and thoroughly enjoyable, although I much prefer the Starflyer.

March 26, 2022 at 3:25 AM

All ride accidents are horrible, but this is perhaps the worst one in some time. While it's not the first time there's been an ejection related death, this occurred in front of a number of bystanders, including at least one who captured the whole incident on video. There's obviously lots of investigative work that needs to be done before a conclusion can be reached, but my initial feeling is one of these two scenarios occurred:

1. The restraint failed in some manner, likely due to the weight of the victim combined with the force of the stop. In the video, it's clear that he was in his seat until the ride hit the brakes, at which point it appears that he came free and continued to fall. What is not clear is whether the restraint was in a more open position or not when the car reached the base of the tower, as the rider definitely looked to be barely within the parameters of being held by the restraint. If this is the cause, it indicates that the restraint design is faulty.

2. The rider slipped out from under the restraint. While this sort of incident has occurred several times on rides with lapbars, the geometry of a shoulder harness makes it much less likely to occur. However, it's plausible that if he was right at the size limit and at just the right position at just the wrong time, such a thing could occur. If this is the cause, it likely means that the monitoring system used to verify proper restraint position is calibrated incorrectly, as the computer read all harnesses were locked in a safe position prior to dispatching the ride.

Regardless of the root cause, this is a truly tragic accident and I feel for not just the family of the victim but for the operators and witnesses to this horrible event. I don't usually get freaked out by ride accidents as amusement rides are incredibly safe, but something like this where it is looking like it was neither guest nor operator error but instead a design problem does get to me.

March 26, 2022 at 11:39 AM

well said, aj. that really put into words why this troubled me in a way other incidents have not.

March 26, 2022 at 5:29 PM

There's absolutely no need to tear it down. Many changes can be made to make it as safe as it should have been in the first place. Secondary restraints, less of an abrupt de-acceleration, even don't have the seats tilt forward at the top. Once it's back up and running, I'll go back on. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the view from the top.

March 26, 2022 at 6:03 PM

FYI, I am deleting comments that include the video or links to it. No need for that.

March 26, 2022 at 6:05 PM

No respect for Tyre! No respect for the victim!
It should have been safe from the start, but it wasn’t and it was done half-a$$ed, just to score a little money off the unassuming tourists. Icon Park belongs on 192 with the rest of the low class money grubbing filth. TEAR IT DOWN!

March 26, 2022 at 6:06 PM

Why Robert, why? The situation has to be understood. The truth of the matter is in the video. Why is the truth being censored?

March 26, 2022 at 6:25 PM

Because I don’t want snuff videos on my website. Real investigators will watch the video. No one else needs to see it.

March 26, 2022 at 6:28 PM

Good for you, Robert. No need for links to videos that show the tragic accident at ICON on Thursday.

March 26, 2022 at 6:48 PM

Meanwhile, those that haven’t seen the video can make casual comments about this “accident”, not knowing the true horror of Tyre’s death and the absolute negligence by Icon Park. I encourage all TPI readers to search out the video on YouTube for yourself and watch it from beginning to end to truly understand the tragedy of Tyre’s death and the gross incompetence of Icon Park.
TEAR IT DOWN!

March 26, 2022 at 7:28 PM

buddy, I don’t need to watch someone die to fully understand the tragedy. I’m sorry you do.

March 27, 2022 at 2:41 AM

The video doesn't really add any new information or context to the incident.
Fox News reporting that the ride was "still hundreds of feet in the air" when he fell out of the seat is quite a stretch though, same as them playing up people saying "let us out" at the end of the video.

It's a tragic accident that will almost certainly come down to a combination of system error, and a failure to manually check the restraints were properly engaged.

March 27, 2022 at 9:46 AM

Bull $hit! The raw video tells it all. Watch the raw video, not the news story videos all over YouTube. From the raw video, it can be seen that Trye didn’t fit in the seat properly and the overhead restraint could not come down fully to secure him in. Look at the video! One rider a few seats away from Tyre even mentioned the lack of a seat buckle to secure the overhead restraint. The design and operation of the tower is garbage!
To dismiss this as simply an accident is a disservice to Tyre. The tower should be torn down and Icon Park should be closed down due to their negligence. Icon Park is nothing but a bull $hit flea circus on I-Drive. They don’t even belong on 192, they’re complete garbage made to look pretty to all the unassuming tourists.
TEAR IT DOWN!

March 27, 2022 at 4:04 PM

Postcott: "I also don't want to point fingers on who may be responsible ..."

Me: Then don't.

Schneider: "Icon Park belongs on 192 with the rest of the low class money grubbing filth."

Me: The scent of your post is truly revolting.

March 27, 2022 at 5:50 PM

I am in Orlando about every other month for work and hit all the theme parks when there. I have ridden this ride several times and often wondered why no seat belt. I don't know if that would have changed the outcome but maybe it could have prevented this tragic loss. As far as the gentleman calling for it to be torn down that is not the answer. If every ride that had a death occur on it was torn down there would be almost no rides including in Disney, Universal, Cedar Fair, Six Flags, Sea World and Bush Garden parks. Hopefully they will find the issue at hand fix it and prevent another tragedy. Oh and yes I watched the video and it is extremely horrific but does not show the cause of accident.

March 27, 2022 at 6:16 PM

How does Tyre come off the ride like he’s not even in a seat?
When the brakes engaged he kept going (at virtually the same speed as the drop) like there wasn’t even a harness or a seat holding him in. Watch the beginning of the video before the ride ascends and look to see if there is a large gap between the bottom of the harness and the seat Tyre is in. You think that’s a big enough gap for him to slip right through and off the ride? Now do you think a seat belt would have prevented this tragedy?

March 28, 2022 at 2:00 AM

Wow! Keith Schneider's previous hateful rant no longer includes this passage: "Icon Park belongs on 192 with the rest of the low class money grubbing filth."

Apparently he's mastered the TPI "edit" function. I guess he realized that his decision to paint all smaller scale attraction operators with the same vile brush was more than just a bit over-the-top.

Way to keep it classy KS. Just be careful you don't trip. Backpedaling can be dangerous.

March 28, 2022 at 3:49 AM

What a terrible tragedy.
Looking at the size of the child he shouldn't have been allowed on the ride.
Next time when a theme park worker tells you you are not allowed on a ride due to size, be respectful, thank them for saving you from disaster.

March 28, 2022 at 8:09 AM

Nothing has/was changed. TH is making ass-umptions again.

March 28, 2022 at 8:21 AM

Yeah it was. Your post had the line "Icon Park belongs on 192 with the rest of the low class money grubbing filth." And now it's gone ... After I called you on it.

March 28, 2022 at 9:20 AM

Robert, I applaud you for not allowing the video to be shared. The video is horrific and awful, and if someone is so inclined they can find it on their own.

I highly doubt the ride will be torn down, but I suspect some major safety upgrades to the harness system. When we were there in February, my 6 year old begged to ride it, and much to our surprise; she was tall enough. We did not allow her to for a multiplicity of reasons, not least of which the fact that she was too short (by half an inch) for Dr. Doom. It does seem that the restrictions are "pushed" to maximize potential ridership. Now, is that the reason for the accident? We will find out with the investigation and safety review. No one on this board, to my knowledge, is a safety inspector for the State of Florida...so we are all just making conjectures. With that said, I had very similar thoughts to AJ's.

March 28, 2022 at 9:47 AM

No, it’s still there. Can you not see it? Are you mental?

March 28, 2022 at 10:50 AM

I apologize! You did leave in your comment about attraction operators on 192 being "filth"! My bad! I was looking at the wrong post! Terrible mistake on my part!

March 28, 2022 at 11:46 PM

I’ve seen a few cars in Orlando that have written “Boycott Icon Park” written on their back car windows. Ouch…

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