‘Tyre Sampson’ bills fix ride safety oversights but keeps records hidden longer

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Central Florida lawmaker has filed a bill to formally address issues that came to light after a 14-year-old fell from a drop tower last year, along with a companion bill that would cost the public information.


Sen. Geraldine Thompson filed the “Tyre Sampson Act” Thursday, which encompasses a series of eight measures to prevent future deaths like Sampson’s from happening.

The proposals include stricter documentation requirements when a ride is modified, unannounced inspections of rides, requirements to post weight restrictions on rides, more rigorous training for ride employees and a further prohibition on changing a ride beyond its recommended manufacturer settings.

Investigators found many of these factors contributed to Sampson’s death, notably that someone authorized tampering with the ride’s safety sensors to allow Sampson’s seat to fit bigger passengers.

Read: State fines Orlando Free Fall operator $250K related to investigation into Tyre Sampson’s death

“I think that when visitors come to Central Florida, and Florida in general, they need to know that there is accountability, that there is scrutiny with regard to the operation of amusement rides,” Thompson said.

Thompson added she had a House sponsor for her bill, which is required to move it toward passage.

She said she had not yet spoken to Republicans, whose votes would be needed, but planned to do so soon.

Read: ‘Meaningful change’: Orlando FreeFall ride to be taken down following Tyre Sampson’s death

Thompson said that many of these restrictions would not apply to bigger theme parks with their inspection staff.

Operators violating the rules would be suspended for varying amounts of time.

But Thompson filed a second bill that may find more controversy: a restriction that exempts preliminary reports from amusement ride crashes or incidents from being released to the public.

Much of what is known about Sampson’s death came from the preliminary report, which was released weeks after his fall, rather than the final report, which came months later.

Read: Orlando FreeFall operator disputes claims of wrongdoing in boy’s death

The preliminary report accused the ride operator, which had been under growing scrutiny because of pictures of Sampson’s seat before he rode on the Orlando FreeFall tower.

Thompson said her bill would protect the reputations of companies involved in crashes or incidents.

“You wouldn’t have a situation where a person is injured and it becomes public,” she said. “People make assumptions, and they reach conclusions before the investigation has concluded.”

Thompson said officials would be able to confirm that an investigation was underway but nothing more. However, the public will learn about the investigation’s conclusions once a final report is released.

Read: ‘Shut this whole thing down’: Tyre Sampson’s family calls for FreeFall’s demolition, statue be built

Her bill piles on the number of restrictions on public access to documents Florida lawmakers are trying to push through this year.

A newly filed bill would restrict numerous grand jury investigation results. This comes as a Georgia judge released documents relating to the effort to overturn the state’s 2020 election results.

Floridians have traditionally benefited from the state’s Sunshine Law and broad access to government documents. The increasing restrictions piled on year after year have led to increased suspicions that lawmakers are trying to hide information from their citizens.

Thompson said she is opposed to many of those efforts, but hers is different.

“In this instance, I come down on the side of [making] sure that we’re protecting organizations, entities from any kind of adverse ruling until an actual ruling occurs,” she explained.

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