ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando thrill ride from which a 14-year-old boy fatally fell earlier this year will be torn down, but not until a death investigation is completed, state officials announced Monday.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said the Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park, which has been shut down since March, when Tyre Sampson fell to his death from the more than 400-foot attraction, will not be dismantled until investigations conclude.
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“There are ongoing investigations into this tragedy, and the tower will not be taken down until those investigations are complete,” the statement read.
Investigations up to this point have revealed that Sampson, who was visiting Orlando from Missouri on spring break, was nearly 100 pounds over the weight limit of the attraction and Orlando FreeFall employees had less than 5 weeks of on-site experience as of March 24, the night the teen fell to his death.
Other findings, which culminated in a lawsuit against the ride’s operators, show the ride did not function as intended that night and found issues with the restraint lock and adjusted sensors.
This comes over a week after the Slingshot Group, which operated the Orlando FreeFall and the Orlando Slingshot, announced the ride would be torn down following Sampson’s family, community members and state and local lawmakers demanding for months that action be taken.
Yarnell Sampson, the 14-year-old’s father, spoke at the site of the attraction in June and demanded operators tear down the ride.
“The goal is to get 25,000 signed petitions to get this ride taken down,” Sampson said alongside his lawyer, Ben Crump, during the news conference. “What my wish is — I would like to have a permanent memorial here for my son stating that he had passed away and his legacy will live on and give proper respect to the dead that needs it.”
Rep. Geraldine Thompson planned to introduce the “Tyre Sampson bill” to the Florida Legislature to “take into account the safety records of any company that wants to operate a ride of this nature,” she said during a June news conference.
“Tearing down the Free Fall Ride shows consideration for the pain still suffered by the Sampson family and members of the community. The continued presence or operation of the Free Fall Ride would be a constant reminder of the disregard for the health, safety and well-being of Tyre Sampson and others who patronize our amusement parks. I will introduce legislation that hopefully will prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again,” Thompson said in a statement.
Yarnell Sampson and Tyre’s mother filed a lawsuit in April suing several companies, including the Slingshot Group and Funtime Thrill Rides, the manufacturer.
Attorneys Ben Crump and Bob Hilliard released the following statement after the attraction’s operator announced the ride would be torn down.
“While this announcement is long overdue, the news today is a relief to Tyre Sampson’s grieving father, who has been advocating for this since the day Tyre fell to his death. The Orlando Free Fall ride never should have been permitted to operate under those faulty conditions. Theme parks, their parent companies, and regulatory agencies must do better to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening to any other family.”
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