Orlando Free Fall drop tower ride is being taken down

Crews began dismantling the Orlando Free Fall ride at Icon Park on March 14, 2023, ten days before the first anniversary of the death of Tyre Sampson.

Orlando Free Fall
Photo by @magiccitymayhem

Sampson, a 14-year-old football player from St. Louis, died on March 24, 2022, after slipping through a modified restraint on the Orlando Free Fall while the drop tower was descending.

Following the completion of the state’s investigation in October, Orlando Slingshot promised to take the ride down. According to a statement from Orlando Slingshot attorney Trevor Arnold, the plan is to completely deconstruct the 430-foot drop tower before the anniversary of Sampson’s tragic death.

In a statement, Icon Park said:

While the Free Fall 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.

On behalf of Sampson’s family, his mother, Nekia Dodd, said she hopes the ride’s removal “does not remove the memory of this tragedy.” She and Sampson’s father, Yarnell Sampson, have requested a permanent memorial to their son be placed at the site.

Florida legislators are also working on bills in Sampson’s name, including the Tyre Sampson Act, which would close gaps in ride safety laws that came to light during the state’s investigation last March. The legislation would prevent attractions operators from making unauthorized adjustments to a ride’s restraint systems and require rides to have secondary safety restraints (like seat belts) for attractions that raise riders more than 100 feet.


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  1. A a mechanical engineer looking at this from the outside, the reported “adjustments” that someone made to the two seats, including the one where this young man was seated, to fit larger riders was obviously done by someone who was totally unqualified to do so. And to me, such “adjustments” constitute incompetent tampering. Second, there most asuredly should have been the secondary restraint, such as a seat belt, and the fact that there wasn’t seems to demonstrate the arrogance of those responsible in thinking that such a thing could never happen with their ride. Thirdly, the secondary restraint should have been tested with sandbags (in the shape of a person) with the primarty restraint failed, to make sure it would be sufficient. In fact, if it were me, I would have done the sand bag test repeatedly until the seat belts failed to make sure we could establish the safe intervals for maintenance. (For example, if they failed after 1,000 drops with repeatability, then you change the wear parts after maybe 500 drops to give an acceptable factor of safety.) I’m not involved in that particular industry but I know that that is just the kind of thing that any licensed engineer would do. I wonder if such licensed persons were really the decision makers. My understanding is that, in anything like this, approval by a licensed engineer in Florida is required.