Orlando Park to Remove Deadly Drop Ride

October 6, 2022, 10:25 AM · The record-setting drop ride from which a Missouri teenager fell to his death earlier this year will not reopen and will be removed, its owner announced today.

The 430-foot Orlando FreeFall was advertised as the world's tallest free-standing drop ride when it opened in December last year. In March, 14-year-old Tyre Sampson fell from the ride after a mis-adjusted sensor failed to prevent the ride from dispatching when his safety harness was not properly secured. [See Report Blames Sensor Adjustment for Orlando FreeFall Accident.]

"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 take down the FreeFall," said Ritchie Armstrong, on behalf of FreeFall owner Orlando Slingshot. "In addition, Orlando Slingshot will honor Tyre and his legacy in the classroom and on the football field by creating a scholarship in his name."

Orlando FreeFall has remained closed since the incident. It is located at ICON Park, a collection of attractions on International Drive.

"Tyre's death is a tragedy that we will never forget. As the landlord, ICON Park welcomes and appreciates Orlando Slingshot's decision to take down the ride," a statement released by ICON Park said.

* * *
For more theme park news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider's weekly newsletter.

Replies (15)

October 6, 2022 at 2:53 PM

It took them six months to make this decision?

October 6, 2022 at 3:11 PM

It takes time to perform a cost-benefit analysis, particularly when it's a 3rd party operator who's ultimately responsible for the incident. As we've seen before, a fatality does not necessarily mean a ride will be immediately removed (see DL's BTMRR).

This is a tragedy, but I am a bit surprised that ICON and Orlando Slingshot were not willing or able to develop corrective actions to operate the attraction. This complex continues to make one misstep after another, yet foolish consumers unwilling to pay premium admission prices for the established theme parks in Orlando continue to flock to these places allowing the tourist traps like this along I-Drive to stay in business.

October 6, 2022 at 3:28 PM

Also, in cases such as these, no one is going to do anything while litigation is in play, which can delay publicizing the inevitable decision to close a venue or project.

Slingshot also said that it needs to approval from regulatory agencies before announcing a timeline for the ride's removal. Putting up something like this requires an enormous amount of work by many parties. Taking it down can require even more.

October 6, 2022 at 4:28 PM

Undoubtedly there are a lot of legal/liability reasons why the announcement has taken thus amount of time, not to mention that an injury or fatality doesn't make it a certainty that a ride will close.
I suspect they have allowed a certain amount of time for an investigation into the cause, so they can claim the ride was flawed at the point of manufacture, and not able to be modified in such a way that would guarantee safety. That would allow them to pursue the manufacturer for all costs involved in regards to the accident and removing the ride. Or they've discovered that isn't an option and bitten the bullet.

October 6, 2022 at 4:46 PM

This is with no disrespect to the youngster who died, and his family, but I'm disappointed they decided to remove it. It was an awesome drop tower, and one I really enjoyed riding. That being said, we still have the Starflyer. Over the next few years it'll be interesting to see how ICON park moves forward after this tragedy.

October 7, 2022 at 3:11 AM

Sometimes the quest to have the most "extreme" rides backfires, sadly meaning someone's death.

Theme parks have to do better at vetting the safety of attractions.

October 7, 2022 at 8:34 AM

@Kenny Vee - Let's be clear in this case, the extreme nature of the attraction was not the cause of this incident (though was likely a contributing factor in the severity). It was directly caused be a misaligned sensor that allowed the ride to be operated while a restraint was not firmly secured. This same issue could have occurred on ANY attraction with similar OTSR sensors.

That's what's strange about this announcement, because the root cause is completely correctable (and preventable), and would not take significant resources and effort to fix the ride's issue and establish a new regimented procedure to ensure it does not fail again. As Robert notes, it's likely going to cost as much or more to remove this attraction as it took to purchase and install.

October 7, 2022 at 2:14 PM


Was the sensor simply misaligned or was it intentionally modified to allow the ride to operate with unsecure restraints to accommodate larger individuals? The ride itself has a weight limit according to the operations manual, but no weight limit was ever communicated to passengers.

It's possible I'm misremembering details from the Department of Agriculture report, but if this is the case, even if the problems are fixable, if I'm ICON Park, I would not longer trust Orlando Slingshot to operate safely on our property.

October 7, 2022 at 8:00 PM

What was needed was more intensive training for ride ops. After the accident on The Smiler - caused by a ride op overriding the system -pursuant to which two women had their legs amputated, Alton Towers made it impossible for ride ops to do this. Almost certainly the drop tower tragedy was caused by a ride op overriding the system. That in itself strikes me as insufficient reason to remove the ride. Back to Alton Towers, they claim that team members had to undergo 500 hours of training to operate Wicker Man. If Icon Park were as assiduous in ensuring that ride ops could operate the rides safely this outcome might have been avoided. I've ridden Orlando Starflyer but at this point don't feel entirely confident that it's being operated properly.

October 8, 2022 at 1:30 AM

While I'm sure their training wasn't the best, the ride ops had nothing to do with it. The ride had been tampered with by someone higher up the chain. This was a case of negligence by management, and they know it, so of course the ride is coming down.

October 8, 2022 at 6:24 AM

The tower itself became a symbol to the tragedy that took place, so no matter what they did to make it safe, the reminder of Tyree's death would always be there.

And let's be real here, the solution was not rocket science. It's a shame it's being removed, but I understand why.

I know someone on the maintenance crew for the drop tower, and previously the Starflyer, and trust me when I say they are on top of their game when making sure the rides are safe.

We may never know the full details of the sensor issue, but I don't see how the ops had anything to do with the accident.

October 8, 2022 at 6:55 AM

Great, Orlando just got a little less ugly.

October 8, 2022 at 11:43 AM

@OT .... no matter what they build and/or remove, I-Drive will always be ugly.. LOL !!

October 8, 2022 at 11:34 PM

Normally when there is accident like this there is a settlement, the ride is fixed, the park agrees to make some changes to their policies and procedures, and the family takes the $ and agrees to not talk to the media.

We have no way of knowing what is going on between the two parties but this family has made it very clear, over and over again, that they are demanding the ride be removed. Ultimately their son was killed through no fault of his own and the operator has no answer for that. Even if the ride is fixed and deemed safe to operate it won't change the fact that the parents will still be demanding the attraction be removed and who knows what they will do to keep the story in the news. If they don't satisfy the family, they could have people standing across the street protesting every single day. Plus you also have to take into consideration that there is an extremely graphic video that went viral of the whole accident. I think its entirely appropriate under the circumstances to say sunk cost and take out all references to the attraction.

October 10, 2022 at 9:47 AM

so many things to take in here...if the operator did indeed tamper with the seat/restraint/sensor, then absolutely take the ride down and let justice be served. as mentioned above, its presence is a constant reminder of a tragedy that should have never happened in the first place.

regarding I-Drive beautification. icon park has been nicknamed i-sore park by many locals. too many "tower" rides are cheapening the area imo. keep that stuff on N. I-Drive and 192 where its a better fit. i thought S. I-Drive was supposed to be a bit classier (i know, there used to be a giant raggedy ann and teddy bear but they are gone now).

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive