Record-Breaking Theme Park Ride Destroyed After Fatal Accident

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Credit: NBC (Left), @CatSilverTV (Right)

Following the tragic death of a young Guest, an infamous Florida theme park ride is finally being demolished.

ICON Park Orlando
Credit: International Drive Orlando

Related: Universal Closing Orlando Theme Park Imminently

Nearly a year ago to the day, 14-year-old Tyre Sampson tragically fell to his death on Orlando Freefall at Orlando’s ICON Park. This horrifying accident occurred on March 24, 2022, shocking millions across the world. The attraction was the “crown jewel” of the amusement park, standing incredibly tall and looming above Orlando, Florida. Called the Orlando FreeFall, the drop tower 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.

According to a report released by law enforcement, Sampson slipped out of his seat at the halfway mark of Orlando Freefall’s drop. A Guest at the Park happened to be filing and caught the terrifying accident on camera, with the video going viral on social media. ICON Park faced intense backlash after the release of this video, with many calling for the entire park to shut down.

The viral video that was captured at the scene shows Sampson falling from his seat about five seconds into the ride’s freefall portion and plummeting hundreds of feet. Deputies were called to the Park at 11 p.m. that night, and Sampson was taken to the hospital, where he later died from his injuries.

According to the autopsy report, Sampson weighed 383 pounds when he fell to his death. The ride has a maximum weight recommendation of 287 pounds, making Sampson 96 pounds over the limit at the time of his fatal fall. The owner’s manual for the attraction listed the ride’s weight limit at 287 pounds – according to police reports, Tyre was just over six feet tall and weighed 383 pounds at the time of the incident.

Another investigation revealed the seats were altered to accommodate Guests who exceeded the weight limit of the attraction.

Crews begin dismantling the Orlando Freefall at Icon Park
Credit: Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda

Related: Disney Employee Gives Creepy Warning to Guests Trapped on Ride

The Slingshot Group, the owner and operator of the attraction,  settled a lawsuit with the State of Florida, agreeing to pay a $250,000 fine. Sampson’s family’s lawsuit, filed on April 25, alleged that there were no posted weight limits or scales at the site of the ride, rendering Guests unaware of the danger.

After further investigation, it was discovered that a harness sensor in Tyre’s seat had been “manually loosened, adjusted and tightened,” allowing for a larger space than normal between his harness and his seat. This adjustment was improperly bypassed by the ride’s safety sensors and allowed the ride to commence. The lawsuit also alleges that Park staff were not trained properly on the weight requirements, loading procedures, or safety mechanisms.

Proper training and safety mechanisms would have saved Tyre Sampson’s life. On Wednesday, Dodd and her family stated that they had settled their lawsuit against ICON Park but not against Funtimes Handels or Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, the ride’s manufacturers.

icon park freefall and the wheel
Credit: ICON Park

Eventually, it was revealed that the attraction would be entirely dismantled. ICON Park confirmed that the dismantling of the ride had already begun this week, saying, “We have been supportive of the Slingshot Group’s decision to dismantle the FreeFall tower and are pleased that the process has begun. The activity will be contained on the southwest corner of the property, and ICON Park’s attractions, restaurants, and dining venues will remain open and operating as normal for guests.”

The dismantling of the 430-foot attraction began this week, and attorneys for the Orlando Slingshot Group have said they want the ride gone by March 24, which will be the one-year anniversary of Tyre Sampson’s death. “I honestly didn’t think that was going to happen,” Dodd said. “I do appreciate that they have honored my request of removing the ride, but I am still without a son. I guess if I put numbers on it, it is 25% of closure.”

A new video from ClickOrlando reveals crews are on-site at the attraction, with a crane dismantling it piece by piece:

Crews are on site at ICON Park where the FreeFall ride is being taken down one year after 14-yr-old Tyre Sampson fell to his death. His mother is expected to visit for the first time this afternoon.

As we stated earlier, in April of 2022, Tyre Sampon’s family filed a lawsuit against SlingShot Group, the owner of the ride as well as its landlord ICON Park, and other manufacturers and installers responsible for building the ride.

As reported by The Orlando Sentinel, a shaken Yarnell Sampson, father of Tyre Sampson, visited ICON Park in Orlando, Florida, where his son died in the shocking ride accident. “I came up here to get my peace,” said Yarnell. “I just wanted to know, did the people know that a young man actually died right here?” he said. “It blew my mind that eight out of 10 I asked didn’t know. They had no clue.”

“These companies cannot be allowed to get away with this,” said Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing the family. “To Slingshot Group, to ICON Park, executives, you all cannot simply sweep this under the rug as if Tyre Sampson’s death doesn’t matter. But Yarnell said Slingshot Group already has plans for another ICON Park ride.

The death of Tyre Sampson is not the only controversy ICON Park has faced in recent times.

Credit: ICON Parl

Related: Guest Breaks Rules at Disney World For Photo With Miss Piggy

Last year, ICON Park announced a new, immersive attractive experience would be added to The Wheel, the park’s 400-foot tall Ferris wheel ride.

The game/attraction hybrid was described as a competition for riders where Guests will use laser blasters to hit targets placed around Orlando as they take advantage of the height provided by The Wheel.

The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, as well as the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, both offer experiences like this proposed attraction, such as Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and Toy Story Mania! as well as MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack at Universal Studios in Orlando. “As their air-conditioned capsule ascends above Orlando, players scan the rooftops of ICON Park to find 50 strategically pre-selected targets with varying degrees of difficulty,” said park officials in a news release today. “To get the highest score possible, players need to hit as many of these as possible with their laser blaster during the 18-minute ride.”

ICON Park proudly stated that The Wheel is “the only observation wheel in the world to provide this amazing, new infrared technology, and effectively gamify and reinvigorate the experience to an entirely new audience of gamers.” However, reception to this new experience was incredibly negative, not only due to the recent death of Sampson at the Park but in light of recent tragedies across the country as well.

Attractions at ICON Park Orlando
Credit: ICON Park Orlando

This project was put on hold and eventually canceled by ICON Park due to negative reception. The complete statement released by Icon Park in regard to this decision reads:

Following recent, well-received innovations from The Wheel at ICON Park, which provide customized experiences for guests, allowing them to play their own music playlist or listen to Orlando’s history story, the Bullseye Blast game satisfied guests who enjoy gaming, arcades and virtual reality. From capsules, guests use a toy infrared device to compete and hit round, colorful targets on rooftops. The experience was thoroughly tested and well received by guests during a process spanning many months.

During the design process we will pause the current version of the game. Just like all electronic games are improved over time, we will pursue a new design that will deliver the same level of customized fun for guests, in a way that the entire community can embrace.

This was the last we heard of the controversial new attraction, indicating it’s been canceled entirely.

Stay tuned here at Inside the Magic for all theme park news stories.

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