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Florida ride where teen fell to his death is ‘serious danger to public health,’ officials said


The Florida amusement park ride where a teen fell to his death last month is an “immediate serious danger to public health,” according to an order from state officials that closed the ride.

The order, from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and released to the public on Monday, formally closed the Free Fall ride the day after the March 24 incident at ICON Park in Orlando.

Tyre Sampson, a 14-year-old from Missouri, slid out of his seat and fell to his death while the drop tower-style ride plunged down in front of horrified onlookers.

The order closing the ride said the Free Fall “is considered an immediate serious danger to public health, safety, and welfare, and may not be operated for patron use until it has passed a subsequent inspection by or at the direction of the Department.”

The was addressed to the Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot, LLC, which owns the Free Fall.

The company’s other ICON Park ride was also closed shortly after the fatal drop tower accident. When it opened, the Free Fall’s nearly 400-foot-drop was billed as the highest in the world.

Photos and video posted online after the incident apparently show the boy — who was over six-and-a-half feet tall — not fully buckled into the ride, with a safety harness sitting far above those of the other riders.

People visit a makeshift memorial for Tyre Sampson outside the Orlando Free Fall ride at ICON Park on March 27, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Sampson, a teenager visiting from Missouri on spring break, fell to his death while on the ride.
People visit a makeshift memorial for Tyre Sampson outside the Orlando Free Fall ride at ICON Park on March 27, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Sampson, a teenager visiting from Missouri on spring break, fell to his death while on the ride.Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP

In video of the incident obtained by NBC News, a voice is heard asking: “Why doesn’t this have the little clicky click to it, like the seatbelt?”

As the ride lifts off, a voice from the ground is heard shouting: “Hey, did you check your seatbelt on the left side? Seatbelt! Seatbelt!”

Sampson was visiting Florida for spring break with his football team. The straight-A student “had a bright future ahead” and was never in trouble, his uncle Carl Sampson told NBC News.

Michael Haggard, one of Sampson’s family’s attorneys, told NBC News affiliate WESH in Orlando that he is focused on the apparent absence of a legally-required declaration of the ride’s maximum rider weight.

The boy reportedly weighed around 300 pounds, while the ride’s maximum rider weight is around 285 pounds.

WESH reported there is no maximum rider weight limit displayed anywhere on Free Fall’s signage — only a maximum height.

Attorney Benjamin Crump, who visited the ride Monday, told reporters that Sampson’s family sees their son’s death as “preventable.”

“Other than George Floyd’s tragic torture video, I think this is the worst tragedy captured on video that I have ever seen,” Crump said.

As attention turns toward the restraint system used to keep riders bucked into the Free Fall, Florida officials said Friday there is no direct federal or state oversight of what thrill-ride manufacturers put in their manuals dictating safety measures.

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