ICON Park Investigation Reveals Seats Were Altered Before Incident, Park Offered No Warnings

in Theme Parks

Attractions at ICON Park Orlando

Credit: ICON Park Orlando

As we continue to be heartbroken by the recent tragedy that occurred at ICON Park, more information has been revealed about recent changes to the ride.

icon park freefall and the wheel
Credit: ICON Park

As reported by Click Orlando, an attorney representing the mother of the 14-year-old boy who fatally fell from the Orlando FreeFall attraction told reporters Tuesday that several seats on the ride had been previously adjusted to fit larger patrons. This comes on the heels of the tragedy at ICON Park in Orlando on International Drive, where 14-year-old Tyre Sampson was released from his seat while riding the world’s tallest freestanding drop tower, the Orlando Free Fall.

“It looks like they have some seats that they directed people to that were bigger,” Michael Haggard said. “Well, if you know that, why are you doing that without finding out how big they are?”

Family arriving at ICON Park Orlando
Credit: ICON Park Orlando

The attraction, called Orlando FreeFall, opened in December 2021, priding itself on being the tallest free-standing drop tower on Earth. The ride would take up to 30 Guests 400 feet into the air before dropping them at about 75 mph.

Tyre Sampson, was visiting Orlando from Missouri on spring break when he, tragically, fell from his seat last week on March 25. While Haggard did not specify why or when the seats were adjusted, he told News 6 investigator Merris Badcock that Sampson had sat in one of the adjusted seats the night he fell from the ride.

Attractions at ICON Park Orlando
Credit: ICON Park Orlando

“This is a ride that is absolutely unique,” Haggard said. “In North America, there is an identical ride up at Dollywood that has the option to tilt forward, and it does not. They do not allow it. They do not operate it that way.” Dollywood also has a ride manufactured by the same company as the Orlando Freefall. Haggard says the Dollywood ride also has an extra seat belt as a backup to the initial safety harness. Dollywood has shut down their attraction at the moment, in lieu of the tragedy.

“[The owners of Orlando Freefall] have a weight restriction that is not disclosed to anyone. That is truly amazing because when you start talking about going 75 mph, from 430 feet to an almost sudden stop when you’re tilted, the biggest risk we can all think of gravity is weight,” he said. “They did nothing to disclose that whatsoever,” Haggard said.

The Wheel at ICON Park
Credit: internationaldriveorlando.com

According to the manual for the attraction, the maximum weight a Guest can be is 286 pounds. Haggard told reporters Tuesday that Sampson weighed around 380 pounds. Surprisingly, Haggard said that “There is a metal detector, so you do not bring your phone on, but there is no sign about weight, and there is no scale. I mean, how that is not more important than a metal detector for a ride like this is kind of amazing.”

As more information comes out, we will continue to monitor this heartbreaking situation.

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