Florida FreeFall tragedy: State agency hires forensic engineer to investigate teen’s amusement park death
A Florida department has hired a forensic engineer to investigate the incident at the Orlando FreeFall ride where a 14-year-old died after falling off of the ride on March 24.
Tyre Sampson, 14, died after falling from the Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park on March 24.
In a press conference on Friday, Nikki Fried, the Florida commissioner of agriculture and consumer services said that her department has hired a forensic engineer with Quest Engineering to assist with the investigation of the Orlando FreeFall incident.
The engineers assisting in this investigation were also involved in the investigation after the Sand Blaster rollercoaster at Daytona Beach derailed on June 14, 2018, which injured nine people, according to Fox 35 Orlando, according to Fried.
Following the investigation into the Orlando FreeFall incident, Fried said that changes to rules will be made if needed.
“I’m also here today to reassure Tyre’s family, friends and all those impacted by this tragedy that we are fully committed to finding out what happened so we can better prevent such tragedies from happening in the future,” Fried said. “And that’s why we will not be jumping to any conclusions before the information is provided to us, and we know all the facts.”
Fried said that the ride is shut down “indefinitely,” and said that the ride’s future operating status will be determined at the conclusion of the investigation.
The Sand Blaster rollercoaster was shut down by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services following an investigation.
An initial inspection into the Orlando FreeFall was conducted in December 2021 before the ride opened to the public, and no issues were found with the ride. Amusement park rides are required to have safety inspections performed every six months following the initial safety inspection.
An accident report filled out by an employee after Sampson fell from the Orlando FreeFall states that the harness was still in a locked position when the ride stopped.
“FreeFall was coming to [sic] down the tower. When the magnets engaged, the patron came out of the seat,” an employee wrote in the report. “Harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped.”
The ride manual for the Orlando FreeFall states that the maximum passenger weight is just over 286 pounds. Sampson was 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighed 330 pounds, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Fried said that the issue of maximum weight will be addressed during the investigation and said that the department will do everything it can to prevent another incident like this from happening.
“We are going to do everything in our power and including potentially increasing our power to make sure that something like this never happens again. This is my solemn promise to all that we are going to have a complete and thorough investigation that is going to be transparent,” Fried said.
In a statement, the SlingShot Group, which operates the Orlando FreeFall, said that it will cooperate with the investigation and expressed its deepest sympathy to Sampson’s family and friends.
“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 statement reads.