A 14-year-old boy has died after falling from the Orlando FreeFall ride at Icon Park, putting the immediate future of the ride in doubt.
An investigation is already under way into how the accident occurred, with eye-witnesses reporting that the boy fell during the final part of the ride’s 400-foot drop.
The FreeFall, which only officially opened in January this year, is the world’s tallest free-standing drop-tower ride and one of three major high-rise attractions at Icon Park, in the heart of Orlando’s International Drive tourist district.
It lifts a full complement of 30 riders slowly up the 430-foot tower while rotating, tilts forward 30 degrees at the top, and then drops at speeds up to 75 mph.
The prime safety mechanism of the FreeFall is a heavy duty over-the-shoulder restraint that locks into place once the rider is seated. There are no seat-belts or secondary restraints, as can be seen in our video coverage from opening day.
It is operated by the Slingshot Group, which has been creating amusement rides in Florida since 2000, and has slingshot-type attractions in each of Daytona Beach, Panama City Beach, and Kissimmee. The FreeFall was their only drop-tower attraction.
The Slingshot Group, operators of the attraction, issued a statement, saying, “We are heartbroken with the incident that took the life of one of our guests. We extend our condolences and deepest sympathy to his family and friends. We are working with the Sheriff’s Office and ride officials on a full investigation. The Orlando FreeFall will be closed until further notice.”
From the perspective of the attractions industry, there is likely to be a worldwide check into their safety procedures, while the FreeFall’s manufacturer, Australian company Funtime, will also be conducting its own checks into the system.
However, there are likely to be multiple investigations into the tragedy, from both a safety and legal point of view, with the ride itself closed indefinitely pending a thorough examination of its mechanism and operating procedures.
A representative at Icon Park responded by stating, “A tragedy occurred last night at the Orlando FreeFall and our hearts are heavy with sadness. The owner of the attraction is fully cooperating with authorities and Icon Park is doing everything we can to assist. The Orlando FreeFall will be closed pending a full investigation. Other businesses at Icon Park are scheduled to be open during their normal business hours.”
Speaking to the Orlando Sentinel, John Stine, sales director for the Slingshot Group, said, “We are absolutely saddened and devastated by what happened, and our hearts go out this young man’s family.”
The Group’s other Icon Park attraction, the high-level swing ride StarFlyer, was also the scene of calamity in 2020 when a 21-year-old technician fell to his death from the ride’s tower during a safety check.
Attractions Magazine is devastated by news of the tragedy, and our thoughts are with the boy’s family.