ORLANDO, Fla. - It’s a question many have asked: How did 14-year-old Tyre Sampson fall to his death while riding on the Orlando FreeFall?
How did this happen? Was he properly secured in his seat? Was he physically too big for the ride? Did the ride malfunction?
These are questions that investigators with the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services seemingly hope to answer at the end of their investigation.
The state agency inspects all amusement rides in Florida for parks that employ fewer than 1,000 people, according to its website. The timeline for when the investigation will be completed and the results released is unknown.
The agency released a handful of documents on Monday, part of its investigation including the operations manual, an initial "written accident report," a previous inspection, and an employee training schedule. On Tuesday, fence barriers were put up around the ride.
According to the initial accident report submitted on March 24, the night of the incident: "FreeFall was coming to (sic) down the tower. When the magnets engaged the patron came out of the seat. Harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped."
Tyre was visiting Orlando from St. Louis, Missouri for a football program, his dad Yarnell Sampson, previously told FOX 35, and was staying with another family. He went to ICON Park on Thursday.
Orlando FreeFall opened in December 2021 and has been billed at the world’s tallest drop tower. Riders are lifted 400 feet or so in the air, tilted forward briefly, and then free-fall 400 feet to the bottom of the ride.
As the ride was descending, Tyre falls from the ride and to the ground. He died at the hospital.
Read the operations manual below.
According to the operations manual from Funtime Thrill Rides, the manufacturer of the drop tower-style ride, there is a recommended minimum height requirement – about four feet – and a maximum weight requirement, 286 pounds.
Sampson’s dad said Tyre was over six feet tall and weighed 340 pounds, which if true, would put him over the recommended maximum weight requirement, according to the manual.
However, there are additional precautions for people who may be physically too big to physically fit into the seat and restraints in the manual.
"Be careful when seeing if large guests fit into the seats. Check that they fit within the contours of the seat and the bracket fits properly. If this is not so - Do not let this person ride," the manual states (bold formatting same as manual).
Other measures include making sure riders are in "good physical and mental condition," and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, among others.
The released documents also state that the ride was inspected in December 2021 before it opened and passed. Being a new ride, it would undergo another inspection in six months, the agency said, but it hadn’t been opened long enough to do a second inspection.
Two employees were trained on the ride operations in February, according to records from the agency.
Some have also asked why the restraints did not have seatbelts. In a letter sent by Funtime Thrill Rides, a general manager wrote that the seat and shoulder restraints…has [two] independent locking devices, and the shoulder restraints are monitored."
"It is no need for an extra safety or seat belt because the seat restraint system fulfil (sic) more than the requirements," adding that the rides were built to meet German TUV standards.
FreeFall and Orlando Slingshot are both owned by SlingShot Group of Companies and are located at ICON Park. FreeFall remains closed until further notice. The slingshot ride also appears to be closed.
"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," Slingshot Group said in a statement last Thursday. They have not released additional statements since.