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Florida officials speak on Orlando thrill ride death investigation

Forensics engineering firm hired to find fault
Orlando FreeFall ride
Posted at 10:02 PM, Apr 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-01 23:22:42-04

ORLANDO, Fla. — On Friday, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services opened up about its "thorough and transparent" investigation into the death of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson of Missouri on an Orlando thrill ride.

“We are not taking this lightly," FDACS Commissioner Nikki Fried said. "We are going to do everything in our power and including potentially increasing our power to make sure that something like this never happens again.”

On March 24, Sampson fell from the 430-foot tall Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park. Signed documents provided by FDACS show the drop tower ride passed a state inspection on December 20, 2021. Signed certification from ride operators there the night of Sampson's death also appeared on a state training record.

However, in the ride's manual, which the state said it used as guidelines for its inspection, the maximum passenger weight is listed as 130 kilograms which equates to nearly 287 pounds. Yarnell Sampson, Tyre's father, has said his son was 6-foot-5 and weighed 340 pounds.

The manual also warns operators to check that "large guests fit within the contours of the seat and the bracket fits properly." If not, operators are told in underlined and bold text, "Do not let this person ride."

“It may be that the investigation will point out that not only the harness, but an additional safeguard, which would’ve been a seat belt, could’ve saved Tyre’s life," Rep. Geraldine Thompson (D) Orlando, Florida, said.

Fried told reporters, that on Friday her inspectors are only given authority to oversee safety according to the ride's manual. Thompson said findings from the investigation could lead to a "Tyre Sampson Bill" allowing FDACS more control in training enforcement and rider safety, in order to avoid another thrill ride tragedy.

“We want no exceptions, and this certainly was the exception rather than the rule," Thompson said.

Fried also announced that FDACS has hired engineering consultant Quest Engineering and Failure Analysis, Inc. to run a detailed forensics exam on Orlando FreeFall. In 2018, the state worked with the firm to find the cause of a roller coaster derailment at a Daytona Beach amusement park.