ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-District 11, sent a letter Tuesday to the state department in charge of investigating the death of a 14-year-old who fell from a thrill ride at ICON Park in Orlando, urging the agency to make the temporary closure of the Orlando FreeFall a permanent one.
Bracy said Tyre Sampson’s death was premature, an “unconscionable and avoidable tragedy,” and called on the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to act quickly — re-inspecting rides throughout the state and outright shutting down the Orlando FreeFall — for others’ safety.
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“I urge the Department to: reexamine and implement minimum safety requirements for fixed amusement parks, implement secondary or additional safety restraints to quickly respond to mechanical and human errors, and require more robust peer training and safety protocols to increase accountability by amusement park operators,” Bracy said. “I urge that these measures be implemented immediately and I also request that the Department close the Orlando FreeFall ride permanently.”
Floridian theme parks that employ 1,000 or fewer people are subject to FDACS inspections for ride safety, permitting and accidents. In the letter, Bracy wrote directly to FDACS Commissioner Nikki Fried.
“No human being should experience the plight of tragedy that could have been avoided by ensuring our amusement parks are operating at the highest levels of safety and care. I greatly appreciate your attention and consideration to this matter,” Bracy said.
At ICON Park, a memorial for Sampson has grown, visited by those who wish to pay their respects to his family.
The ride was shut down indefinitely as state inspectors began their investigation, with the StarFlyer and the Orlando SlingShot similarly closed soon after, according to the SlingShot Group, which owns and operates the rides at ICON Park.
Ken Martin, a longtime independent ride safety inspector, told News 6 that the manual for the Orlando FreeFall shows Sampson was too big to have been allowed to ride.
“This young man did nothing wrong,” Martin said. “It’s the owner operator’s responsibility to inform the rider what the requirements are. I don’t understand why there are failures on multiple levels. Failures at the manufacturer’s level, failure at the owner-operator level. Basically, the weight limit in the ride manual is there.”
In an FDACS news release Monday, the department acknowledged its authority to sanction amusement ride owners that break the law. as well as to “close and impound amusement rides that post an immediate serious danger to public health, safety, and welfare,” making mention that said owner/operator is responsible for both day-of inspections of a given ride and for the training of each employee authorized to operate it.
Fried said in a statement that the findings of the ongoing FDCAS investigation will “inform us all” as to what changes the department will make, if any.
Read Bracy’s letter below, or by clicking here.