ORLANDO, Fla. - The entertainment company that opened Orlando FreeFall – the drop tower ride at ICON Park where a teenager fell off and died last week – and Orlando Slingshot, also owns a handful of other attractions in the state.
The Slingshot Group owns the Orlando Starflyer, billed as the "world's tallest swing ride," in Orlando, the Old Town Slingshot, a slingshot-type ride, and The Vomatron, a ride that swings riders at speeds up to 70 miles per hour, in Kissimmee, and slingshot rides in Daytona and Panama City.
Following the death of Tyre Sampson, who was in Orlando for a football program, according to his family, Slingshot Group suspended the operations of its two rides at ICON Park. However, its other attractions appear to be operating as normal.
"We are heartbroken by the loss of Tyre Sampson and absolutely devastated for his family and loved ones," Ritchie Armstrong, CEO of The Slingshot Group, said in an new statement late Tuesday.
"We have suspended the operations of the Free Fall ride and the Slingshot ride at ICON Park. We are fully cooperating with authorities at the state and local levels who are investigating this tragic incident. We plan on providing additional information in the coming days, as we learn more."
Armstrong's spokesperson did not respond to FOX 35's question about why Slingshot Group's other rides are not closed since the Orlando Slingshot at Icon Park is (Slingshot was not involved in Thursday's tragedy). The landlords of ICON Park sent a letter to Slingshot Group asking them to shut down both rides at its park until their safety could be verified.
In December 2020, FOX 35 spoke with Armstrong about FreeFall and Slingshot, which were announced at the time, about their safety.
"These are extreme rides, but there are procedures and protocols that we follow," he said then.
Since Sampson's death, many people have asked similar questions: how did this happen? Were there missed signs? Was Sampson properly secured in the ride? Was he physically too big for the ride?
Those are questions that investigators will hopefully answer.
The timeline for how long the investigation will take and when its findings will be released isn't clear. Investigators have been out at ICON Park inspecting the ride several times in wake of Sampson's death.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which inspects rides and attractions around the state at parks that employ fewer than 1,000 people, has released documents that were submitted to them by the ride's operator, including FreeFall's operations manual, recent employee training confirmations, and Slingshot's initial accident report.
Still, some tourists who FOX 35 spoke to on Wednesday were cautious about the other rides in operation.
"We’re not going on any rides, period," said Wykeshia Coleman, who brought her daughter to Central Florida for Spring Break.
Troy Bowling said he’s been on a few rides with his grandkids, but he’s now reading all the signs to make sure rides are appropriate for his family members.
"If we didn’t’ think it was safe for them to be on it, we wouldn’t let them on it," he said.
At Old Town, where Slingshot Group operates two rides, at least one person had mixed feelings.
"To have them still going after a tragedy like that it’s like do they even care?" said Coleman.
FOX 35 has requested inspection reports and safety records for each of Slingshot Group's rides from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which inspects rides and attractions around the state at parks that employ fewer than 1,000 people.
Tyre's death marks at least the fourth reported incident involving one of Slingshot Group's rides.
Justin Honeycutt died on July 2, 2011, while working on the original Starflyer ride owned by Slingshot, according to a lawsuit filed by his mom.
Justin Kaminski, 21, died on September 16, 2020, after he fell from the new Starflyer at ICON Park while conducting routine maintenance.
Two teenage girls were rescued from Old Town Slingshot in Kissimmee on March 25, 2021, after one of the attraction's cables broke. They were not injured.
Editor's note: Due to a copyediting error, the year of Justin Honeycutt's death was listed incorrectly in a previous version of this story. He died in 2011.