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Orlando's ICON Park Demands Shutdown of Second Ride

March 28, 2022, 4:37 PM · The owner of the International Drive attraction where a teenage visitor fell to his death last week is demanding the closure of drop tower's sister ride as well.

Both Orlando FreeFall and Orlando SlingShot are located at ICON Park on International Drive. However, the attractions are owned and operated by another company, SlingShot Group, which leases the land from ICON Park. SlingShot Group closed the 450-foot Orlando FreeFall last week following the accident that claimed the life of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson of Missouri. SlingShot Group announced that the ride would remain closed pending an investigation into the incident.

Now ICON Park wants the adjacent Orlando SlingShot ride closed, too, until both rides are proven safe by authorities. The company issued the following statement to the press today:

"As the landlord of the 20-acre entertainment destination in the center of the Orlando Entertainment District, ICON Park's mission is to provide safe, family entertainment. We rely on our tenants to be experts at what they do. In the interests of public safety, ICON Park demands that the SlingShot Group suspend not only the operation of Orlando FreeFall but also the operation of Orlando SlingShot, effective immediately, continuing until such time as a thorough investigation by the appropriate authorities has been completed and all parties are satisfied that the rides are safe for the public."

"We continue to grieve the passing of Tyre Sampson and our thoughts are with his family and friends. This was the saddest day in the history of ICON Park and we're working hard to make sure this never happens again."

In September 2020, a maintenance worker, 21-year-old Jacob Kaminsky, fell to his death while working on ICON Park's 450-foot Orlando StarFlyer swing ride.

Update: The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees amusement attractions in the state, has released an operations manual for the Funtime Freefall 2021 with Tiltseats, which is the model for the Orlando FreeFall ride. The manual says that the maximum weight for riders on the attraction is 130 kg, or just under 287 pounds. According to media reports quoting family members, Sampson was 6'5" and 340 pounds, which would mean that he exceeded the maximum allowed weight for the ride.

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Replies (8)

March 28, 2022 at 6:24 PM

The weight report suggests that this is an operations failure rather than a design flaw on the ride. That likely would accelerate the process of getting the ride itself declared safe, thought it also likely would focus the liability for the death upon the operator and not the manufacturer.

That pending liability could make it difficult, if not impossible, for the operator to resume business, especially if the landlord is taking steps like this against the operator.

March 28, 2022 at 11:42 PM

I’ve seen several cars in Orlando with “Boycott Icon Park” written on their back windows.

March 29, 2022 at 10:38 AM

In the engineering world, an appropriate safety factor is usually 10x, meaning that a mechanical or structural component should be able to withstand forces ten times the maximum recommended capacity. I don't think the force induced by the rider's mass was a factor here, but instead the failure of the restraint to be closed and locked sufficiently (i.e. past the first "click").

I know a lot of people hate seat belts, and having to latch and check them reduces throughput, but I am often perplexed when any OTSR or other lap restraint lacks a seat belt. Seat belts are not designed to secure the rider, but are there to act as a failsafe and positive verification that the OTSR or lap bar has closed sufficiently. Seat belts that can't be latched with larger riders in the seats provide ride ops an easy way to explain to guests that they are too big to ride without resorting to embarrassing scales or visual sorting based on girth. It sucks for larger riders that have to do the "walk of shame", but seat belts are a simple tool to allow ride ops tell that the restraints will work properly, and that a failsafe is in place just in case.

From a rider's perspective, a seat belt latching to an OTSR or lap bar does not impede anything, and provides a peace of mind for the skittish that may be concerned about a restraint failure. I really don't understand the trend recently from ride manufacturers to ditch seat belts even if they are used more as measuring tools than actual safety devices.

March 29, 2022 at 2:30 PM

Russell Meyer, I couldn't agree more and have been saying exactly this for years. Rosa Ayala-Goana (and others) wouldn't have had to die such an awful death if Six Flags over Texas had had a seat belt in place.

March 29, 2022 at 5:08 PM

While I agree with most of Russell's statement, the one about engineering is incorrect. I've been an engineer for 20+ years (structures, mechanical) and have never seen a 10x safety margin. SM is calculated as (Failure Load/Design Load) - 1 = SM. To achieve a 10x SM on a 300lb person would require the seat be able to take 3300 lbs. A 10% SM is more likely, and far more common. I don't know what the standard SM is in amusement rides, but I've worked on planes (military, commercial, agriculture) for more than 12 years and anything positive was sufficient in most areas. The highest I've seen is 25%.

March 30, 2022 at 12:05 AM

As someone with a mechanical engineering degree, I agree that a 10x factor of safety is unrealistic for a theme park attraction. Perhaps for a structural element you might go that high, but typically for mechanical components you're generally going to go for a factor of safety of around 1.5-2x, with components that could cause an immediate catastrophic failure perhaps getting up to 4x. For dynamic systems, it just isn't practical to go above that as the costs greatly outweigh the increased safety, and in some cases would make many designs impossible. This is particularly true in the aerospace sphere, where it's rare to see much above 1.5x as planes would just be too heavy to fly.

Of course, this is all a moot point here as no part of the restraint mechanism failed. Instead, it appears that the restraint was not in its proper position despite the computer saying that it was, resulting in the guest slipping out. The big questions to me are why was the sensor calibrated to read clear when the restraint was still high enough for there to be a gap between the rider and seat, and were the operators trained on the possibility of a false positive and how to identify one? The answers to these will likely determine where the fault lies and what will be required for the attraction to reopen.

March 30, 2022 at 9:40 AM

As person of size (depends on the season), if the harness will not close AND the seatbelt does not latch, you are not safe. Do not ride. Yes it can be embarrassing but you will be alive. When I saw the picture of the young man in the seat I knew immediately it was going to be problematic especially due to the tilt nature of the ride. That harness was way too high to keep anyone in the seat. At least a seatbelt would have possibly kept him in the seat with the wedgy of a lifetime. I still like BGT Falcons Fury setup. Harness + Seatbelt + interlocking thingy that prevents you from unlatching the seatbelt. Did they really save that much money from not installing the seatbelts ? This is not a high throughput park where you need to put 1200 people per hour through the queue. So skipping the seatbelts is not really saving any time.

March 30, 2022 at 6:54 PM

I'm guessing that Russell meant capacity plus 10%, which would be 330 pounds. But he is right in saying that if the restraint doesn't go beyond the first "click," one probably should not ride.

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