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Investigation Finds That Park Ride Seat Restraint Was Manually Adjusted to Unsafe Lengths Before 14-Year-Old Boy Fell to His Death

Orlando, FL. – Investigators in Florida reported Monday that the safety sensors on an amusement park ride had been manually adjusted to double the size of the opening for restraints on two seats, resulting in a 14-year-old Tyre Sampson to fall to his death from his improperly secured seat. 

According to a report from the forensic engineering firm hired by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the sensors on two of the seats on the Orlando Freefall had been modified so it could operate even though those seats had an opening almost twice as large as normal.  

The average opening for restraints on the seats of the ride was 3.3 inches, however, the opening of the restraints for the seat used by Tyre was as much as 7.1 inches, according to the report. 

That modification allowed Tyre to fall from the ride on March 24. The ride did not experience a mechanical or electrical failure, the report found. The safety harness on his seat was ‘still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped,’ according to a previous report.

“The cause of the subject accident was that Tyre Sampson was not properly secured in the seat primarily due to mis-adjustment of the harness proximity sensor,” the report said. “The mis-adjustment of the sensor allowed both safety lights to illuminate, improperly satisfying the ride’s electronic safety mechanisms allowing the ride to commence even though the ride was unsafe.”

The Orlando FreeFall is billed as “the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower.” Standing more than 430 feet tall, the ride elevates riders to the top, and tilts them forward before plunging down 400 feet at speeds of over 75 mph. 

The seats were adjusted “presumably to allow for larger riders,” Rep. Geraldine Thompson said at a press conference Monday, but it’s unclear who adjusted the seats and when.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried said the investigation is ongoing and the ride will remain closed indefinitely.

“There are many other potential contributing factors that may have played a role in the incident,” she said Monday. “While the initial phase of our investigation is complete, we are far from done uncovering all of the facts and factors at play that are needed to inform of the next steps.”

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