Orlando SlingShot reopens at ICON Park over year after death of Tyre Sampson on nearby thrill ride

Orlando FreeFall dismantled after 14-year-old plunged to his death

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando SlingShot, a thrill ride at ICON Park in the city’s tourist district, reopened Thursday, more than a year after suspending operations when a 14-year-old fell to his death at a nearby attraction owned by the same company.

The SlingShot, which catapults riders up to 450 feet into the air at speeds of 100 mph in less than two seconds, was closed in March 2022 after Tyre Sampson died when he fell from his seat on the Orlando FreeFall, a drop tower ride.

An investigation into the tragedy shows Sampson’s seat wasn’t properly secure because of the teen’s size, and manual changes were made to the seat’s sensor that made the ride unsafe.

The SlingShot Group, which owns the attractions, closed both thrill rides after the teen’s death. The Orlando FreeFall was later dismantled after owners of the ride agreed to do so in October.

SlingShot Group CEO Ritchie Armstrong on Thursday released a statement about the reopening.

“Today, we reopened the SlingShot ride on the south side of International Drive. We did this in close consultation with the Florida Department of Agriculture and all appropriate regulatory authorities. We also worked with a third party national safety company to guide our reopening procedures and help train the workers who will be operating the ride. It is important to know that this ride is a totally different ride from the FreeFall, which has been disassembled and removed from this property entirely. The safety of our patrons continues to be our highest priority and that is why we were supportive of the Tyre Sampson Act being passed by the Florida Legislature this year.”

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Earlier this year, ICON Park, where the rides are located, issued a statement about the dismantling of Orlando FreeFall.

“There is nothing more important to ICON Park than the safety of our guests and employees, and we’ve been supportive in assisting Sen. Thompson with her proposed legislation,” ICON Park said in a statement on Wednesday. “We agree with the goal to ensure extra diligence and oversight with mid- to small-attraction operators for ride training, testing and process documentation, which we also focus on in our own rigorous ride safety protocols. While the FreeFall ride is not owned and was not controlled or operated by ICON Park, because it is a tenant on the property, we agree with the owner’s decision to dismantle the ride and our hearts are with the family as they witness this important milestone.”

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday signed the Tyre Sampson Act into law, providing more oversight to amusement park rides.

The legislation includes requirements for a seat belt and harness for any ride that goes over 100 feet and for all rides to be regularly commissioned, certified and tested by a separate regulatory agency.

“Now we have in statute in the state of Florida, some very stringent standards with regard to the operation of amusement rides,” Thompson said. “Whenever there is a modification to a ride after it has received a permit to operate, there is now a duty for the owner or the operator to notify the state of that.”

Thompson said she has issues with the SlingShot Group reopening the Orlando SlingShot.

“To know that the same company is now getting ready to resume operation of another ride concerns me, but I have some comfort because we do have the inspections program now in place,” she said.

Some tourists were skeptical of getting on the SlingShot because of the FreeFall tragedy.

“I just don’t feel comfortable with my family being on the ride at all,” said Chauntel Webb, visiting Orlando from Minnesota. “The height and the safety part of it kind of gives me kind of uncomfortable vibes because of just how high it is.”


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About the Author:

Daniel started with WKMG-TV in 2000 and became the digital content manager in 2009. When he's not working on ClickOrlando.com, Daniel likes to head to the beach or find a sporting event nearby.