TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Authorities on Friday identified a 14-year-old boy who fell to his death from a tower ride at Orlando’s ICON Park on Thursday night.
At a Friday press conference, Orange County Sheriff John Mina identified the teen as Tyre Sampson.
Mina said Sampson was visiting the park from Missouri with his friend’s family. He fell from the “Orlando Free-Fall” ride at about 11 p.m. He was rushed to Arnold Palmer Hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.
“We can’t imagine the pain and anguish that his family must be going through,” Mina said. “Our victim advocates have been in contact with the family and helping them through this ordeal.”
The ride, which opened in Dec. 2021, bills itself as the “world’s tallest freestanding drop tower.” It stands at 430 feet, and can accommodate 30 riders at full capacity.
Riders can be heard raising concerns about seatbelts with the crew in a video widely shared online. The video shows the ride ascending the tower and plummeting, then a passenger is seen falling from the ride.
“We have looked at that video and actually, had that video flagged because something that awful shouldn’t be out there in the public, but it’s something that the Dept. of Agriculture will certainly look at, and obviously we’ll look at that as we make a determination if this was accidental or not,” Mina said.
John Stine, director of sales and marketing for the Slingshot Group of Companies, the owner and operator of the ride, says there are several safety checks in place before the ride is ready to launch.
“The ride will not operate if those checks are not greenlighted. Again, everything was functioning properly when the ride started. What we don’t know is what happened after that,” Stine told News Channel 8. “We’re just deeply saddened and shocked by what happened last night. Our hearts break for the family.”
“I’m not aware of a seatbelt, but I’m aware of a large locking device that’s put over each of the passengers [shoulders],” Mina told reporters when asked about safety concerns on Friday.
The sheriff said investigators were still working to determine if the teen slipped out of his seat, and whether he lost consciousness during the fall.
“The investigation is open,” he added. “As of right now, there are absolutely no criminal charges, and again, it appears just to be a terrible tragedy.”
“It just messed me up because I’m a mom. I’m a grandma,” said Octavia Standley, who lives in Orlando. “I know this was a family that came here and said, let’s go have fun, we’re going to have this thrill.”
Standley said she avoided riding the FreeFall attraction since it opened in December.
“I’m a thrill ride person doesn’t matter, I’m going to get on it. But something about it kept ringing like no,” she said.
The ride will remain closed until the investigation finshes.