Orlando Free Fall owner, Slingshot Group, appeals state fine, investigation into Tyre Sampson's death

The owners of the Orlando Free Fall ride at ICON Park have requested a formal administrative hearing to appeal a proposed $250,000 fine from the state following its investigation into 14-year-old Tyre Sampson's fall death in June.

According to the filing, which was provided to FOX 35, Orlando Slingshot, LLC, has requested a formal administrative hearing with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings and is challenging at least 20 parts of the state's investigation.

Here are some of the allegations that the company is challenging:

  • That Orlando FreeFall's owners were aware of the adjustments to the safety sensors on Tyre Sampson's seat
  • That the adjustments to the seat Tyre Sampson was sitting in violated the manufacturer's "recommendations, requirements, and/or guidelines"
  • That the adjustment of the seat restraints were approved by the ride's maker
  • That Sampson "exceeded the contours of the seat" and that the manufacture's instructions had a "maximum weight restriction specific to the Drop Tower"
  • That Orlando Slingshot "failed to provide training to its employees" on the ride's weight limits, and alleged training schedule
  • That the company allowed "untrained and unsupervised" people to operate the ride

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said it had received the complaint and was reviewing it. It declined further comment.

"After Tyre’s tragic death, we learned of improper employee conduct and took immediate action to correct it, including disciplinary action and suspensions. We also promptly provided this information to all investigating parties," Slingshot Group's attorneys said in a written statement. "In order to ensure further safety improvements were made, we brought in two outside firms to improve our training, maintenance, and safety practices. We continue to voluntarily share all needed information with FDACS and the Sheriff’s Office."

Following the state's investigation, Slingshot Group's owners said it would take down its drop tower ride, which opened in December 2021, and has been closed since June. It's unclear when the ride will be demolished.

Sampson, a high school football player from St. Louis, Missouri, was visiting Orlando for Spring Break and went to ICON Park with friends. He and another friend were on the drop tower ride, which carried riders over 400 feet into the air, and tilted them forward before plunging back down.

As the ride made its way down, Sampson fell out of the ride restraints and hit the ground, the report said, which was also captured on video – and widely circulated in news stories and on social media. Sampson later died at the hospital.

A state-led investigation found that Sampson's seat on the ride had been "manually adjusted" to accommodate his size and "allowed the harness' restraint opening to be almost double that of the normal restraints opening range," Nikki Fried, Agriculture Commissioner, said previously.

Since the investigation, a state lawmaker has proposed the "Tyre Sampson Bill" to increase ride safety regulations and inspections. Sampson's parents have also filed a joint wrongful death lawsuit against Slingshot Group.

"I’m going through this holiday season without my son. Physically, emotionally and spiritually it’s been draining," said Yarnell Sampson, Tyre's dad.