Florida Free-Fall Ride To Be Torn Down After Teen's Fatal Fall

Seven months ago, 14-year-old Tyre Sampson slipped from his harness and plunged to his death at ICON Park in Orlando, Florida.
The FreeFall drop tower at ICON Park in Orlando, Florida, is pictured a few days after 14-year-old Tyre Sampson died after falling from his seat.
The FreeFall drop tower at ICON Park in Orlando, Florida, is pictured a few days after 14-year-old Tyre Sampson died after falling from his seat.
Orlando Sentinel via Getty Images

A towering 430-foot free-fall ride in Florida from which a 14-year-old boy plunged to his death in March will be torn down in response to the tragedy, the ride’s operators announced Thursday.

The FreeFall ride at Orlando’s ICON Park had been declared a “danger to public health, safety, and welfare” and was shut down shortly after middle-schooler Tyre Sampson slipped from his harness as the ride, which takes riders higher than the Statue of Liberty, rapidly descended on March 24.

The ride’s operator, Ritchie Armstrong, said that he and others remain “devastated by Tyre’s death.”

“We have listened to the wishes of Tyre’s family and the community, and have made the decision to take down the FreeFall,” Armstrong said in a statement. “In addition, Orlando Slingshot will honor Tyre and his legacy in the classroom and on the football field by creating a scholarship in his name.”

Details about the scholarship and the ride’s removal date will be shared at a later date, Armstrong said. An attorney for Tyre’s family did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Family and friends of Tyre Sampson leave items during a vigil in front of the Orlando FreeFall drop tower on March 28.
Family and friends of Tyre Sampson leave items during a vigil in front of the Orlando FreeFall drop tower on March 28.
Orlando Sentinel via Getty Images

ICON Park, which leased land for the ride, said in a statement that it “welcomes and appreciates” the decision to remove the attraction.

A state investigation into Tyre’s death determined in April that improper adjustments to safety sensors on the ride’s seats allowed the teen to slip from his harness. The adjustments improperly created a 6–7-inch gap in the harness restraint to allow the ride to operate with larger riders, even though this was unsafe, local officials said at the time. The teen surpassed the ride’s recommended weight limit, according to the Orange County Medical Examiner’s report.

Tyre’s father accused the operator in a lawsuit in April of failing to post height or weight restrictions at the ticket counter. This and other failures resulted in his son’s death, his suit argues.

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