Orlando FreeFall: Will a new ride open at ICON Park to replace drop tower ride?
ORLANDO, Fla. - Piece by piece, construction crews and engineers have begun dismantling the Orlando FreeFall drop tower ride at ICON Park, which comes nearly a year after 14-year-old Tyre Sampson – who was visiting from St. Louis for Spring Break – fell off the ride and died, sparking state investigations, lawsuits, and calls for additional amusement ride safety regulations.
Once the ride is fully dismantled, what happens next? Are there plans to open a new ride in its place? Here is what we know.
The 400-foot ride opened in December 2021 at ICON Park and was billed as the "world's tallest drop tower ride." The amusement would carousel people up to 400 feet high, tilt them slightly forward, and then drop toward the ground.
Slingshot Group, which owns Orlando FreeFall, said in a statement that it expects the tear-down process to take at least two weeks to fully take down the ride. The goal is to have the ride taken down by March 24, the year anniversary of Sampson's death.
Some parts may end up in storage, but it wasn't immediately clear where the ride would ultimately end up.
Slingshot Group owns a second ride at ICON Park – Orlando Slingshot. That ride closed shortly after the incident with FreeFall. It has not reopened, however, in February 2023, it did pass its inspection from the state. However, a timeline for when that ride could or would reopen is not known.
In an email to FOX 35, representatives for ICON Park said Slingshot Group still has a pre-existing lease with them, and controls that area of the park.
"When they share with the media their intentions for the future of that space, we’re happy to provide a response," ICON Park's statement stated.
In an email, representatives for Slingshot Group said they had no information immediately available on the future of the space.
An expert who talked to FOX 35 said he would be surrpised if the ride were sold and rebuilt in the U.S.
What happened to Tyre Sampson?
Tyre Sampson was in town for Spring Break and went to ICON Park on March 24, 2022. He and a friend went on the Orlando FreeFall ride.
As the ride came down, Sampson slipped out of the restraints and fell to the ground, a tragic event that was caught on camera.
A state investigation found that a couple of the ride's seats, including Sampson's were manually adjusted, which may have overridden the ride's safety sensors, among other concerns.
Slingshot Group, who was facing a $250,000 from the state, denied the allegations, and ultimately came to a settlement agreement with the state. Details on that agreement were not known.
Sampson's parents – Yarnell Sampson and Nekia Dodd – filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the ride's owners. This week, their attorney announced that a settlement agreement had been reached in that case.
Tyre's dad has visited ICON Park several times and called for the ride to be taken down several times. Tyre's mom visited ICON Park for the first time this week to see the ride being taken down.
"My son took his last breath on this ride, so it's heartbreaking, it's devastating, it's a feeling I hope no other parent will ever have to go through after this ride comes down," she said.