Report Blames Sensor Adjustment for Orlando FreeFall Accident

April 18, 2022, 1:44 PM · A modification to a key safety system appears to have been a cause in the death of a teenager on an Orlando thrill ride earlier this year, a Florida investigation has found.

A report by Quest Engineering & Failure Analysis, Inc. for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services noted evidence that a proximity sensor had been moved on the seat from which Tyre Sampson fell, causing the Orlando FreeFall's automated safety system to believe that the teen was safely secured in his seat when he was not.

"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 report said. "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."

The 14-year-old Missouri boy fell from the drop ride on International Drive in March. According to family members quoted in local media, Sampson stood over six feet tall and weighed over 300 pounds, which exceeded the published safety limit for a passenger's weight on the ride. The reported noted two investigators standing over six feet tall and weighing between 200 and 300 pounds were able to slip through the opening between the over-the-shoulder restraint and the seat when that gap ranged between six to 10 inches - the suspected range on Sampson's seat with the mis-aligned sensor.

The investigation also noted that the ride did not suffer any mechanical or electrical failure.

"There are many other potential contributions to the cause of the accident and this report in no way assures the safety of the ride in the normal, adjusted or unadjusted harness positions," the report said. "A full review of the ride's design, safety, operation, restraint mechanisms and history should be performed as this report just focuses on the physical evidence of the failure of the ride to secure Tyre Sampson."

ICON Park, which leased the land for the Orlando FreeFall attraction to its operator, SlingShot Group, released the following 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."

Replies (3)

April 19, 2022 at 8:10 AM

I guess the question then would be how did the sensor become misaligned. Was it not aligned properly during the original assembly or did it become misaligned over use and/or during routine maintenance?

From watching Pantheon go through some restraint sensor issues, I noticed that the BGW maintenance staff had a measuring device (metal rod) to confirm that sensors were showing restraints as locked at the same spot on each seat. I wonder if this process should have been part of daily or weekly checks on the ICON attraction and if it will be part of a mandated daily routine if the tower is given clearance to operate again.

I suppose that it's also possible that if sensors can become easily misaligned that some other device (seat belt) will be required to ensure that the restraint has been closed to an acceptable degree.

April 19, 2022 at 8:24 AM

"A new report from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) revealed that the operator of the Orlando drop tower allegedly made manual adjustments to the ride, resulting in it being unsafe, FDACS Commissioner Nikki Fried said at a press conference Monday."

April 25, 2022 at 8:24 AM

Allegedly seats 1 & 2 were manually adjusted to accommodate larger riders.

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