Florida Lawmakers Going After Theme Parks “Loophole” After ICON Park Tragedy

in Theme Parks

icon park freefall and the wheel

Credit: ICON Park

Several weeks ago, a tragic story left the entire theme park world shocked and heartbroken when 14-year-old Tyre Samson was released from his seat and fell to his death while riding the Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park.

ICON Park demanded that SlingShot Group– the company that operates Orlando FreeFall– cease operations of both the FreeFall and the Orlando SlingShot. Protests have been held outside the attraction pushing for it to be taken down and the family has announced that it plans to file a lawsuit.

Attractions at ICON Park Orlando
Credit: ICON Park Orlando

As the investigation is ongoing, the incident has made theme parks across the country and legislators alike take a hard look at safety measures for Guests. In Tennessee, Dollywood closed its drop tower attraction, Drop Line, out of an abundance of caution because the ride was made by the same manufacturer that constructed Orlando FreeFall.

In addition, it seems that Florida lawmakers are also looking to make changes that would affect theme parks across the state, including Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, Legoland, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and many more.

mickey mouse in front of cinderella castle
Credit: Disney

An operating manual from the Orlando FreeFall states that the maximum rider weight for the attraction was just over 286 pounds. Samson was 6-foot-5 and weighed over 350 pounds.

According to a recent report from Fox, Florida House of Representative member Geraldine Thompson, who represents parts of Orlando, said rides should be required by law to display any height or weight restriction.

“We should make sure that there is signage as you approach the ride that indicates any height and weight restrictions,” Thompson said. “It absolutely should be mandatory so that, as the consumer approaches the ride, he or she knows what the height and weight restrictions are, and family members and friends who were with that person would know what those restrictions are.” 

The Wheel at ICON Park
Credit: internationaldriveorlando.com

Many Florida theme parks list the minimum requirements (height restrictions) to ride an attraction but are not required to list maximum weight restrictions.

In addition, Thompson said that training should be increased for theme park ride attendants.

“I think there needs to be a specific amount of training that’s required, a certain amount of hours of training that’s required,” Thompson said. “For example, when I go to the hair salon, I know that the stylist has received over a hundred and something hours of training, and that assures me that, you know, maybe my hair won’t fall off. But, in this instance, we’re talking about life and death.”

Family arriving at ICON Park Orlando
Credit: ICON Park Orlando

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried noted that rule changes could follow the investigation.

If these changes were to take effect, it would affect both theme parks and amusement rides statewide. Signs posted outside of attractions would be significantly more detailed and other measures– like potentially adding scales to attractions that would light up green or red if the Guest is able to ride– could become required.

What do you think of these potential changes? Let us know in the comments.

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