TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida state officials filed an administrative complaint against Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot, LLC, in regard to the tragic death of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson, who fell 70 feet from the Free Fall ride at ICON Park ride earlier this year.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried made the announcement Tuesday.
“Today, my department issued an administrative complaint alleging multiple violations of Florida law related to these findings,” Fried said. “We are seeking an administrative fine exceeding $250,000 — One of the largest ever sought and a permanent revocation of the ride’s operating permit in the state of Florida.”
She added, “With the magnitude of this incident, it was important to me that the department took the necessary time to conduct a thorough investigation and get this right.”
In March, an examination of the ride found that the proximity sensor in Tyre’s seat had been manually repositioned to allow a larger restraint opening than the ride’s other seats.
The ride’s weight limit for a rider was capped at 287 pounds. However, autopsy results showed the teen weighed 383 pounds. A ride safety analyst said he should never have been allowed to get on the ride.
“Because the rides harness proximity sensor had been improperly adjusted, the ride was allowed to commence even though the was unsafe and led directly to [Tyre’s] fall,” Fried said.
Tyre’s autopsy results showed the 14-year-old suffered serious internal injuries, as well as injuries to his head, neck and torso. His injuries included a broken arm, a broken leg, a fractured jaw and several fractured ribs.
His death was ruled an accident.
Fried said a ride training manual did not exist and noted that ride operators had been through minimal training.
Fried was also joined by State Senator Geraldine Thompson to share a series of legislative proposals to increase ride safety throughout the state.
The proposals included expanded signing posting requirements for patron qualifications. Right now, the law only mandates signage be posted by the ride’s manufacturer.
Fried also proposed an increased number of “safety systems checks” before engineers sign off during the permitting process, an updated “major modifications” term to include any changes to safety systems, and an increase in required accident reporting from amusement rides.
“Finally, we want to request new positions with the sole mission of inspecting permanent ride facilities and traveling shows and fairs to monitor safe operations and verify training of on-site staff during the operations,” Fried said.
Safety monitors would perform unannounced visits to ensure safety is being followed.
In response to Tuesday’s announcement, attorneys for the Orlando Slingshot ride said, “We continue to support the changes to Florida law that Agriculture Commissioner Fried and Senator Thompson outlined today. We share their goal to prevent a tragic accident, like that involving Tyre, from ever happening again. We are and have been working closely with FDACS and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in their respective investigations. We have cooperated with the authorities from the moment the accident occurred and will continue to do so with full transparency.
“Immediately following this tragic accident, we promptly investigated and took appropriate actions as a result of that investigation. This included suspending two employees based on the results of our internal investigation. We also brought in two outside firms to improve training, maintenance, and safety practices. We took these steps to ensure continued operations conform to applicable standards and recommendations.”