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Teen’s death on Orlando amusement park ride could spur law changes

A 14-year-old boy fell to his death from the FreeFall ride at ICON Park.
Close up view of the Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park on Friday, March 25, 2022, in Orlando.  A 14-year-old boy fell to his death from the ride.
Close up view of the Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park on Friday, March 25, 2022, in Orlando. A 14-year-old boy fell to his death from the ride. [ WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | AP ]
Published Apr. 1

A Central Florida lawmaker said she expects to see legislation to address issues involved in 14-year-old Tyre Sampson’s death last week from the Orlando FreeFall ride.

Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere, said details of the legislation will depend on the findings of an investigation by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“We don’t have all of the facts,” Thompson said. “So we can’t, in terms of a knee-jerk reaction, say this is what needs to happen. But once we have the investigation, I’ll be working on the Tyre Sampson bill to address whatever the problems are.”

Related: Teens falls to death from Florida amusement park ride

Thompson, whose district includes many of the region’s tourist attractions, said issues could range from operator training to requiring the addition of seatbelts to similar rides as a safety redundancy for over-the-shoulder harnesses, which were part of the 430-foot tower drop at Orlando’s ICON Park.

The FreeFall ride and a nearby Slingshot ride are currently shut down.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees amusement rides at such businesses, is working with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in investigating Sampson’s death.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said she will make recommendations to the Legislature if any findings from the investigation are beyond her agency’s oversight.

No date has been set to complete the investigation.

“We’re not going to jump to any conclusions about whether or not age issues or the intensity of the inspections, until such time that we get a thorough and complete investigation done,” Fried said.

Sampson was in Florida from St. Louis as part of a football program trip when he slipped out of the ride’s seat on March 24.

According to state records, the FreeFall and Slingshot rides underwent initial inspections on Dec. 20, with no deficiencies reported. Fried said oversight rules were followed when the tower ride opened in December.

Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Ocoee, wrote a letter this week asking Fried to make the temporary closure of the ride permanent.

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