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State department fines Orlando FreeFall attraction company $250K after death of Tyre Sampson

Commissioner Niki Fried giving an announcement on the investigation into the Orlando FreeFall attraction in ICON Park.
( The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services)
Commissioner Niki Fried giving an announcement on the investigation into the Orlando FreeFall attraction in ICON Park. ( The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services)

A Florida department announced Tuesday it’s seeking a $250,000 fine against a ride operator after its investigation of the death of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson, who fell from the Orlando FreeFall ride in March.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is issuing an administrative complaint indicating multiple state violations made by the Sling Shot Group ride operators leading to Tyre Sampson’s fallat ICON Park.The fine is one of the largest administrative penalties the department has ever sought, said Commissioner Niki Fried during a press conference.  

“The department’s investigation has concluded that Tyre fell from the drop tower due to changes made by the ride operators,” she said. “He was sitting in one of two seats where the proximity sensor was manually repositioned to allow a larger restraint opening than the ride’s other seats, and because his seat’s harness proximity sensor had been improperly adjusted the ride was allowed to commence even though it was unsafe and led directly to his fall.”

The department’s findings

The department’s investigation also revealed the company conducted minimal training on the ride.

“A training manual did not exist. Neither of the attendants nor the operator had read or seen the manufacturer manual, nor had operating documents been provided to the attendants or the operators that were on duty,” she said.

As a result, the department is also seeking the revocation of the ride’s operating permit in the state and will be forwarding all of its findings to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office to consider criminal charges.

Avoiding future tragedy

Commissioner Fried said in addition to its investigation the department committed itself to seeking legislative change to state attractions.

“We’ve expanded and refined that framework into a list of promised proposed legislative objectives to help prevent the kind of tragedy that happened to Tyre from never happening again. Our goal here is to identify the issues that we believe played a direct part in his death,” she said.

During the press conference, Fried proposed nine changes to ensure safer attractions:

  •  Expanding signage posting requirements for patron qualifications.
  • Increasing the number of safety system checks during the permitting process.
  • Updating the term “major modifications” to include any modifications of safety settings.
  • Adding department authority to adopt rules for employee training and creating a minimal standard for operating, training, retaining, and training program documentation.
  • Increasing reporting requirements for the documentation of maintenance.
  • Requiring all administrative devices to undergo wide commissioning and certification as part of permitting requirements.
  • Adding a requirement that the operator must provide the department with location and other data for the manufacture of all tolerance settings and specifications related to the patron restraints and safety systems.
  • Increasing the required accident reporting for amusement rides.
  • Requesting new positions with the sole mission of inspecting permanent ride facilities, traveling shows, and fairs to monitor safety and verify training of on-site staff during operations.

Copyright 2022 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

Joe Mario Pedersen
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