Report: Orlando FreeFall’s operator made manual adjustments to ride that made it unsafe

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Monday released a report, shedding light on the death of Tyre Sampson, 14, who fell from the Orlando FreeFall ride at ICON Park on March 24.

READ: Boy, 14, dies after falling from FreeFall ride at ICON Park in Orlando

The report revealed that the ride’s operator made manual adjustments, resulting in it being unsafe, Fried said.

She said adjustments were made to the “censor of the seat in question to allow the harness restraint opening to be almost double that of the normal restraint opening range.”

Investigators said the normal space between a safety harness and exit of the seat is 3.33 inches while Tyre’s seat was 7.19 inches

Fried said the adjustment allowed safety lights to “illuminate, improperly, satisfying the ride’s electronic safety mechanism that allowed the ride to operate, even tough Mr. Sampson was not properly secured in the seat.”

READ: Investigation into 14-year-old’s death on free-fall ride continues

She said the ride will remain closed indefinitely as her office continues its investigation.

The next phases of the investigation will determine whether the operator will face any penalties and if any changes must be made to the state’s rules and regulations for rides, Fried said.

Read the full report below:

Michael Haggard, the attorney for Sampson’s family, said Monday that the Orlando FreeFall should have never been built or allowed to operate.

He said it is a dangerous ride that was made even worse by the adjustments detailed in the preliminary report.

“It shocks me that companies can be this irresponsible,” he said.

READ: Team investigating 14-year-old’s death on free-fall ride speaks out

He said the findings of the newly released report show that the case could become criminal.

“You start getting into intentional behavior that likely leads to tragedy, which is exactly what happened to Tyre,” Haggard said.

READ: Woman claiming to be related to boy who fell from ride has no ties to family, investigation shows

Haggard said he would allow the facts of the investigation to lead him down whatever path he takes. He has so far only ruled out going after the teenage ride operators on duty the night Sampson died.

More importantly, he said, his client’s actions will also be about preventing another death.

“She wants justice in this case, but more importantly, wants uniform standards that this can never happen again, and adding tight restrictions to these types of rides,” Haggard said.

TIMELINE: 14-year-old boy dies after falling from ICON Park free fall ride

ICON Park released the following statement after the preliminary findings were released:

“We are deeply troubled that the preliminary findings of the State’s investigation indicate a sensor on the Orlando FreeFall attraction, which is owned and operated by the SlingShot Group, had been mis-adjusted after the sensor was originally secured in place. ICON Park is committed to providing a safe, fun experience for families. We will continue to support the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services with their ongoing investigation.”

READ: ICON Park calls for FreeFall, SlingShot rides to suspend operations following teen’s death

Trevor Arnold, the attorney representing Orlando Slingshot, also released the following statement on Monday:

“Orlando Slingshot has fully cooperated with the State during the initial phase of its investigation, and we will continue to do so until it has officially concluded. All protocols, procedures and safety measures provided to us by the manufacturer of the rider were followed. Today’s report suggests a full review of the ride’s design, safety, operation, restraint mechanisms and history - which of course we welcome. We look forward to working with the Florida legislature to implement change in the industry, as the safety of our patrons is always our top priority.”

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Jason Kelly

Jason Kelly, WFTV.com

Jason Kelly joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2014. He serves as the station's Digital Executive Producer.

Katlyn Brieskorn, WFTV.com

Katlyn Brieskorn is a Digital Assignment Editor at WFTV. She joined Channel 9 in July 2019.

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