Orlando Theme Park Ride Had Been Modified Before 14-Year-Old’s Death, Confirms Inspection By Engineering Firm

Icon Park's Wheel
(Image credit: Icon Park)

Last month, 14-year-old Tyre Sampson died while riding ICON Park’s Orlando FreeFall attraction after falling off “the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower.” Following an investigation into the tragic incident, a report has provided some answers about what led to the teen’s horrifying death on March 24 when he visited the Florida park from his home in Missouri. 

According to a new report from the forensic engineering firm hired by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the sensors on two of the ride's seats had been modified to have an opening twice as large as normal (six inches instead of three inches) before Tyre Sampson boarded the ride. The report deduced that the gap may have expanded during the ride, and as the attraction slowed down, Sampson slipped between the seat and harness, falling to his death. 

After Sampson fell from the ICON Park ride, his seat was reportedly "still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped,” per a prior finding. As the report states, per USA Today

The cause of the subject accident was that Tyre Sampson was not properly secured in the seat primarily due to mis-adjustment of the harness proximity sensor. The mis-adjustment of the sensor allowed both safety lights to illuminate, improperly satisfying the ride's electronic safety mechanisms allowing the ride to commence even though the ride was unsafe.

The Orlando FreeFall seat that Tyre Sampson was placed in was adjusted to "presumably to allow for larger riders," per Rep. Geraldine Thompson’s words at a news conference about the incident Monday. They have not determined who adjusted the seats and when that adjustment occurred. As previously determined, the ride did not experience mechanical or electrical failure.

The late teen’s mother, Nekia Dodd, was reportedly “in shock” and “absolutely distraught” by the news, per her attorney Michael Haggard to Fox 35 Orlando. Following the incident, Tyre Sampson’s family decided to lawyer up in order to get justice for the tragic incident. The owner of the Orlando FreeFall apologized just following the death and the ride closing indefinitely. A ride in Dollywood made by the same company has since shut down its own drop-down attraction to remain cautious. 

Orlando FreeFall opened at ICON Park late 2021. It seated 30 riders at a time and could rise to top, tilt forward and plunge nearly 400 feet in the air, along with getting to the speed of 75 miles per hour. Orlando is also the home of numerous other theme parks, including Walt Disney World, which has numerous upcoming attractions, and Universal Studios, which is opening a new park called Universal’s Epic Universe in 2025

Our condolences go out to the family and friends of Tyre Sampson here at CinemaBlend as they continue to mourn the 14-year-old’s untimely death. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.