Ride safety at Florida theme parks is a constant concern for Park owners, Guests, and the Florida government. However, even with the best intentions and efforts, accidents occasionally happen.
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A Terrible Accident
Last year, 14-year-old Tyre Sampson was vacationing in Florida. While riding the Orlando Free Fall drop tower at Orlando’s ICON Park, he tragically fell to his death, shocking millions of Orlando visitors. The amusement Park’s signature attraction loomed over Orlando and prided itself on being the tallest free-standing drop tower. It took Guests 400 feet into the air (roughly double the height of The Tower of Terror) before dropping the ride vehicle at approximately 75 mph.
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According to law enforcement, Sampson slipped out of his seat at the halfway point of the attraction, plummeting hundreds of feet. He was taken to the local hospital and later died from the injuries.
ICON Park faced intense backlash after the incident, with many calling for the entire Park to shut down.
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During an investigation, it was learned that Sampson (who was over six feet tall) weighed 383 pounds, but the attraction had a weight limit of 287 pounds. Another investigation revealed the seats were altered to accommodate Guests who exceeded the attraction’s weight limit.
After further investigation, it was discovered that a harness sensor in Sampson’s seat had been “manually loosened, adjusted and tightened,” allowing for a larger space than usual between Sampson’s harness and seat. The ride’s safety sensors improperly bypassed this adjustment. It is widely believed that proper training and safety mechanisms would have saved Tyre Sampson’s life.
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On May 11, 2023, the Florida legislature unanimously passed the “Tyre Sampson Act.” The new bill requires that rides have signs addressing height, weight, health, and age restrictions. Ride operators are also required to report all injuries resulting from hospital or clinic visits, and any ride safety adjustments must be reported to the state.
The Tyre Sampson Act also adds 14 new ride safety inspectors, new employee training requirements, and will include unannounced inspections and safety tests.
The bill was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis on Thursday, along with multiple other bills, including a controversial one that targets Disney World’s monorail.
ICON Park’s Orlando Free Fall ride that Tyre Sampson fell from has been demolished.
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