ORLANDO, Fla. - Officials announced on Monday the findings of a report into how Tyre Sampson fell from the Orlando FreeFall ride at ICON Park. A new report shows the operator made "manual adjustments" to his seat when he got on.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said that findings by Quest Engineering, a forensics company hired by the state, determined that the operator of Orlando FreeFall made manual adjustments to the ride's harness proximity sensor "resulting in it being unsafe."
"The report confirms that manual adjustments had been made to the sensor for the seat in question that allowed the harness' restraint opening to be almost double that of the normal restraints opening range," Fried said during a press conference.
"These misadjustments allowed the safety lights to illuminate – improperly satisfying the ride's electronic safety mechanisms -- that allowed the ride to operate even though Mr. Sampson was not properly secured in the seat," she said.
According to the report, the harness proximity sensor on seat 1 (seat Sampson was in) "was manually loosened, adjusted, and tightened to allow a restraint opening of near 7 inches." Normal range is near three inches, the report said.
Seat 2 was also adjusted, the report said. The other seats appeared to be within their normal range, according to the report.
You can view a copy of Quest Engineering's report below.
When the magnets engaged to slow the ride as it was in freefall, Sampson slipped between the harness and the seat, "which may have expanded several inches due to inherent seat and harness compliance," the report said.
It also stated that there were other contributing factors, but did not elaborate. The report also concluded that the ride itself "did not experience a mechanical or electrical failure."
"Orlando Slingshot has fully cooperated with the State during the initial phase of its investigation, and we will continue to do so until it has officially concluded. All protocols, procedures and safety measures provided to us by the manufacturer of the ride were followed," the owners of the ride said in a statement via their attorney.
"Today’s report suggests a full review of the ride’s design, safety, operation, restraint mechanisms and history – which of course we welcome. We look forward to working with the Florida legislature to implement change in the industry, as the safety of our patrons is always our top priority," the statement said.
Commissioner Fried, whose agency in tasked with inspecting amusements and rides at small theme parks, said Orlando FreeFall would remain closed "indefinitely" and that the investigations into why and how the tragedy happened would continue.
The ride has been closed since March 24, 2022, when Sampson fell off the ride. Sampson was visiting Orlando with another family from St. Louis, Missouri.
Orlando FreeFall, which opened in December 2021, was touted as the "world's largest drop tower" ride. It is a vertical drop tower ride that takes people some 400 feet into the air, briefly tilts forward, and then free falls several hundred feet to the ground.
Following Sampson's death, an investigation opened and questions were raised about how it happened and how to avoid it, including whether Sampson was properly secured into his seat, whether he was too physically large or too tall, or exceeded the ride's weight restrictions.
An operating manual from the ride's manufacturer for the Orlando FreeFall stated that the maximum passenger weight is just over 286 pounds. Sampson was 6 feet, 5 inches tall and reportedly weighed 360 pounds.
The Slingshot Group, formerly known as The Slingshot Group of Companies, owns a number of amusement rides around Florida, including slingshot-type rides.
They opened Orlando FreeFall and Orlando Slingshot, billed as the world's largest slingshot, in December 2021. They also own Orlando Starflyer, which is near ICON Park, but technically not on its property.