The 430-foot-tall Orlando FreeFall drop tower at Icon Park, will be removed after 14-year-old Tyre Sampson fell to his death on the ride in March.
Promoted as the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower, the attraction opened at Icon Park (home to the 400-foot-tall Wheel, formerly known as the Orlando Eye) in December 2021. On March 24, Sampson, who was visiting Orlando from Missouri, fell out of his seat during the ride’s descent.
A preliminary report commissioned by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDCAS) blamed the death on “misadjustment of the harness safety sensor.” Sampson was well above the 287-pound weight limit for riders specified in the attraction’s manual, and the report said safety sensors had been adjusted to allow for an unsafe gap between the seat and the bottom of the safety harness.
That extra space, which expanded once the ride was in operation, allowed Sampson to slip through the harness. The investigation to find who made or authorized those adjustments is still ongoing.
Orlando Slingshot, which operates the drop tower and the nearby Slingshot attraction, announced the permanent closure Thursday.
“We are devastated by Tyre’s death,” Slingshot Group CEO Ritchie Armstrong said in a statement. “We have listened to the wishes of Tyre’s family and the community, and have made the decision to take down the FreeFall.”
Armstrong also said the company will create a scholarship in Sampson’s name. Sampson’s family still has an ongoing lawsuit against Orlando Slingshot, Icon Park and the ride’s manufacturers and installers.
Icon Park, which leases the land for the attraction, said in an unsigned statement that it supports the ride’s closure.
“Tyre’s death is a tragedy that we will never forget,” the statement said. “As the landlord, Icon Park welcomes and appreciates Orlando Slingshot’s decision to take down the ride.”
Orlando FreeFall cannot be taken down until FDACS finishes its investigation and no timeline for completing the probe has been announced.
The fatal accident did lead to new proposals in the Florida legislature aimed at improving amusement ride safety in the state. As a smaller attraction, Orlando FreeFall was subject to state inspections, whereas major theme parks operated by Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld are allowed to rely on their own safety inspections as long as they report any accidents involving guests requiring a 24-hour hospital stay. That exemption would not change under any of the proposals made earlier this year.