Safety expert: ‘I have serious concerns’ about harness in teen’s death on Orlando FreeFall

ORLANDO, Fla. — The safety harness used to restrain the 14-year-old who fell to his death from Orlando FreeFall at Icon Park Thursday night is raising concerns.

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Pictures and videos from Thursday night’s tragedy are raising questions.

Sampson was large and tall for his age. In one clip, he can be seen sitting in his seat with his safety harness at an obvious angle, different than for skinnier riders.

The angle created a gap at the bottom, allowing him to fall out.

LIVE UPDATES: Father of teen who died on Orlando FreeFall: ‘The grief behind this is not worth it’

Brian Avery, a 25-year ride-safety expert based in Orlando, told Channel 9, “I have serious concerns based on the appearance and position of the harness.”

Though riders should be measured for height and weight, Avery said, “It can be difficult for a ride operator to address rider weight.”

Avery also told Channel 9 that “a seat belt connected to the harness or around the waist of the person should have been utilized in the event the primary restraint failed.”

READ: Documents shed light on inspections and construction of Orlando free fall ride

Sampson was the second person to be killed in a drop-type ride in the U.S. in months. A 6-year-old girl fell to her death in Colorado in September after not being properly restrained.

Grief was a common theme as tourists walked past the now-closed ride Friday afternoon. Many took pictures while others left flowers.

“I can’t imagine that kind of thing happening right in front of me, like (on) a regular night,” one person told Channel 9.

Photos: Investigation underway at ICON Park after boy dies following fall from Orlando FreeFall

Amusement park injuries and death have become less common since the turn of the century.

In 2003, parks reopened more than 2,000 injuries. In 2019, about 1,250 injuries were reported, or less than one injury per million rides, and most reported locally have been minor, according to quarterly reports.

Video circulating social media shows a worker asking employees if they checked Sampson’s harness after he fell.


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Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.