State inspectors investigate ride at ICON Park in Orlando after teen’s deadly fall

Orlando FreeFall will not operate unless safety harness is locked in place, operators say

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando FreeFall is shut down indefinitely as state inspectors from the Florida Department of Agriculture begin their investigation into how a teen fell from the ride and plummeted to his death Thursday night.

Tyre Sampson, from Missouri, fell from the Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park on International Drive in Orlando around 11:10 p.m. Thursday, according to Orange County Sheriff John Mina. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Orange County deputies said.

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Sampson was visiting Orlando with another family prior to the fall, investigators said. Video showing the fatal fall, which News 6 and will not show due to its graphic nature, was shared on social media. It appears to show the boy slipping from his harness before the fall.

“Based on all of our preliminary investigation information, it appears to be a terrible tragedy, but our investigation is still open,” Mina said.

In the viral video, ICON Park workers can be heard talking about what happened. The conversation below occurred in a loud, hectic environment, and portions of the conversation are not clearly audible.

Worker 1: What are you doing?

Worker 2: I don’t know.

Worker 1: Didn’t you check it?

Worker 2: Yeah. The light was on.

Worker 3: We both -- we checked it. The light was on.

Worker 1: You guys are sure you checked it?

Workers 2 and 3: We did, yeah, the light was on.

The company that operates the ride, the SlingShot Group, told News 6 workers are responsible for checking lights on the restraint system to ensure they are properly secured. The company added that the ride will not operate if the restraints do not lock properly.

“The ride will not ascend unless the harnesses are locked in,” said John Stine, director of sales and marketing for The SlingShot Group. “There were no indications there was anything different. So this is what we’ve got to find out.”

The ride, which opened in December 2021 and is billed as the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower, takes up to 30 guests high into the air before dropping 400 feet at about 75 mph.

Two other rides operated by the company — the Starflyer and SlingShot — will also remain closed as the death is investigated, according to the company.

The Orlando FreeFall and the SlingShot both passed an inspection from the state in late December 2021.


Legal expert Steven Kramer said despite permits and liability insurance, human error could still make the company responsible.

“If your prone to some kind of heart condition, that could be an issue. But you don’t generally get on a roller coaster and assume that you are going to fall out of that roller coaster 400 feet to your death,” Kramer said.

Kramer said it’s still too soon to determine who is at fault.

“You make sure that every one of those passengers is secure in their seat, especially if you are going to put them in a position where they could be injured or die, especially if you are dealing with kids,” Kramer said.

About the Authors:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.