State leaders push 7 proposals to make thrill rides safer after Orlando FreeFall death

Tyre Sampson, 14, fell to his death from ICON Park attraction

Following the fatal fall of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson from the Orlando FreeFall earlier this year, leaders are pushing for proposals to improve safety on thrill rides going forward.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried announced plans for new legislation Wednesday to improve safety on thrill rides.

The push comes months after the death of Tyre Sampson, who fell from the Orlando FreeFall ride at ICON Park.

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“Our goal here was to identify the issues that caused that perfect storm in Tyre’s case and work to prevent them from ever occurring again,” Fried said.

Fried, along with Sen. Randolph Bracy and state Rep. Geraldine Thompson introduced the draft framework for the proposed legislation.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried announced plans for new legislation Wednesday to improve safety on thrill rides.

“We want to show the public that nothing is being swept under the rug and we want the family members to understand that we are working on this,” Thompson said.

The framework, which will not apply to larger theme parks, includes seven proposals focused on increased signage at thrill rides, additional training for ride operators, increased maintenance reporting, third-party reviews of permanent rides before certification, preventing restraint and safety systems from being adjusted, requiring accident reporting and a new ride monitoring position for unannounced inspections of ride operations.

Read the full framework below:

“We lost a beautiful boy and we want to make sure that we are honoring his memory by taking action. I made a promise that we’d do everything in our power to prevent another tragedy,” Fried said. “We are taking this accident very seriously and working on a comprehensive response to increase rider safety across the state.”

Fried held a meeting a last month with Bracy to discuss the investigation into Sampson’s death.

“The problem is that we don’t even know what was the ultimate cause and what was the causation, (so) that is certainly going to be something that is what is being investigated,” Fried said.

Bracy focused on three of the provisions of the framework, believing they could have prevented the death of Sampson.

“I think we need new positions for unannounced visits, checking to make sure employees are properly trained,” Bracy said. “I think this is very important to hold the right operators accountable. Secondly, I think the rise must have third-party review and certification by a national testing lab. And then third, I think we need to adopt the rules for employee training, retraining and training program documentation.”

Bracy, who said he’s called for a special session to move the legislation forward, also announced his plan to name the bill after the boy.

“We should name this bill in honor of Tyre Sampson — to honor his memory but also so that we have a reminder that this should never happen again,” he said.

Thompson highlighted the need for additional signage.

“In addition to a height requirement, we need to make sure that the signage also deals with weight because even though Tyre was 14 years old, he was over 6 feet tall and over 300 pounds,” Thompson said. “And so we want to make sure that the signage includes everything so that the potential rider is informed.”

Protestors gathered outside ICON Park Monday afternoon to rail against the amusement park following the death of a 14-year-old boy who fell from the park’s Orlando FreeFall ride.

The Florida-based LLC that owns and operates the Orlando FreeFall, the Slingshot Group of Companies, is also in support of the framework for the bill, according to the group’s attorney.

“We support the framework of the new ‘Tyre Sampson Bill’ for increasing amusement park safety measures outlined by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Florida Senator Randolph Bracy, and Florida Rep. Geraldine Thompson today. We are always focused on the safety of our patrons and we look forward to working with the Florida legislature to implement changes in the industry,” the group’s attorney Trevor Arnold said in a statement on Wednesday.

Sampson’s autopsy report was released last month and showed that the teen weighed about 100 pounds over the weight limit of the attraction, according to the ride manual.

Sampson’s dad recently demanded the dismantling of the Orlando FreeFall, saying a permanent memorial should be created for his son.

“Justice for Tyre is well deserved,” Yarnell Sampson said. “He was an honor roll student (with a 4.0 GPA) and he didn’t sign up to die. That was not his legacy.”

Yarnell Sampson said while he’s still pushing for a permanent memorial at the site for his son and pushes for the ride to stay shut down, the draft legislation is a good start.

“I would hate for this situation to happen down the road just because we didn’t spend our resources to try to make change,” Yarnell Sampson said. “Justice for Tyre is definitely important and his name deserves some respect on it.”

Tyre Sampson’s mother, Nekia Dodd, released a statement through her attorney following Wednesday’s news conference. It reads:

“I appreciate the proposed amusement park ride safety legislation, named after my son Tyre Sampson, that was presented today by Commissioner Fried, Senator Bracy and Representative Thompson.

I pray that state leaders in Florida pass this proposed law so no other family has to ever suffer as I am. I feel the pain each and every day over the loss of my beloved son Big Tick, Tyre Sampson. It has been 4 months since he was taken from me and 4 months of incredible agony.

I also want to reiterate that I believe the ride should be taken down. It’s a monument to this preventable tragedy. The ride’s mere existence is an insult to the memory of my son and makes each day since he was killed even more impossible for those of us who loved Tyre every day of his life.”


About the Authors:

Ezzy Castro is a multimedia journalist on News 6's morning team who has a passion for telling the stories of the people in the Central Florida community. Ezzy worked at WFOR CBS4 in South Florida and KBMT in Beaumont, Texas, where she covered Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Being from Miami, Ezzy loves Cuban coffee and croquetas!

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.