ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Sensors on a Florida amusement park ride had been adjusted manually to double the size of the opening for restraints on two seats, resulting in a 14-year-old boy not being properly secured before he slipped out and fell to his death, according to an initial report released Monday by outside engineers.
The average opening for restraints on the seats on the 430-foot, free-fall amusement park ride located in the heart of Orlando’s tourist district was 3.3 inches. However, the opening of the restraint for the seat used by Tyre Sampson was as much as 7.1 inches, and the one for another seat was 6.5 inches, according to the report commissioned by the Florida Department of Agriculture, which is investigating the accident.
Sampson was only 14 but already 6 feet, 5 inches tall and well over 300 pounds when he slipped out of his seat as the ride plunged to the ground at speeds of 75 mph or more.
An inspection of the seats showed that sensors used to activate safety lights on the two seats, indicating the harness safety restraints were in place, had been adjusted to allow for the wider openings. As the ride slowed down, Sampson slipped through a gap between the seat and safety harness, the report said.
“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 sensors,” said the report from Quest Engineering and Failure Analysis, Inc.
The Orlando Free Fall ride, which is taller than the Statue of Liberty, didn’t experience any electrical or mechanical failures, the report said.
The release of the report marks the initial phase of the investigation into the teen’s death, and “we are far from done,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said at a news conference in Orlando.
The report said there were many other “potential contributions” to the accident and that a full review of the ride’s design and operations was needed.
ICON Park released the following statement:
We are deeply troubled that the preliminary findings of the State’s investigation indicate a sensor on the Orlando FreeFall attraction, which is owned and operated by the SlingShot Group, had been mis-adjusted after the sensor was originally secured in place. ICON Park is committed to providing a safe, fun experience for families. We will continue to support the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services with their ongoing investigation.
Trevor Arnold, the attorney representing ride operator Orlando SlingShot, released the following statement:
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. 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.
By MIKE SCHNEIDER, Associated Press