Florida Thrill Tower Taken Down After Teen’s Death

Efthymis Oraiopoulos
By Efthymis Oraiopoulos
October 7, 2022US News
Florida Thrill Tower Taken Down After Teen’s Death
The Orlando Free Fall drop tower in ICON Park in Orlando, Fla., on March 28, 2022. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

A Florida drop tower where a teen fell to his death in March is going to be removed because of the accident its owner said on Thursday.

Tyre Sampson, 14, died after falling from the thrill tower on March 24, 2022.

An independent forensic engineering firm hired in the investigation found that the tower operator had manually adjusted Sampson’s chair, and that resulted in the accident, according to ClickOrlando.com.

The drop tower is known as the Orlando FreeFall in ICON Park. The more than 400-foot thrill tower opened last December in Orlando’s International Drive district. Orlando Slingshot, the owner, said it planned to create a scholarship in the teenager’s name.

Tyre Sampson
Tyre Sampson in a file photo. (Courtesy of Yarnell Sampson)

“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, an official with Orlando Slingshot.

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

The initial report by outside engineers hired by the Florida Department of Agriculture said sensors on the ride had been adjusted manually to double the size of the opening for restraints on two seats, resulting in the teen not being properly secured. The report said there were many other “potential contributions” to the accident and that a full review of the ride’s design and operations was needed.

Orlando icon park
The ICON Park in Orlando, Fla., in a file photo. (Josh duLac/CNN)

ClickOrlando reports that Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried had announced the results of the investigation’s report in March and she had already said that the Orlando tower would be closed indefinitely.

Sampson was a Missouri native in Florida during spring break.

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

“While this announcement is long overdue, the news today is a relief to Tyre Sampson’s grieving father, who has been advocating for this since the day Tyre fell to his death,” Ben Crump and Bob Hilliard, attorneys for Sampson’s father, said in a statement.

No timeline was given for when the ride will be taken down.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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