Ag Commissioner: Amusement ride operator ‘made manual adjustments to the ride’ before teen’s death

By: - April 18, 2022 5:59 pm

Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried released information from the investigation into Tyre Sampson’s fatal fall during a press conference on April 18, 2022. Credit: Screenshot/Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

An initial investigation into the fatal fall of a 14-year-old boy on an Orlando amusement park ride found that the ride operator made “manual adjustments to the ride,” resulting in it being unsafe, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried reported Monday.

An engineer firm called Quest Engineering & Failure Analysis was hired by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to investigate what led to the death of Tyre Sampson, who feel from his seat while riding the Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park last month.

The operator of the Orlando FreeFall “made manual adjustments to the ride, resulting in it being unsafe,” and Sampson was not secured in his seat, Fried said at a press conference Monday.

She said the Quest engineering firm finalized its “field investigation report,” but the investigation will continue as the ride remains closed indefinitely.

“As you all know, at our previous press conference we announced the department had hired a forensic engineer to assist with this investigation,” Fried said. “This report answers the question of what mechanically took place as our investigation now enters into the next phase of how and why it occurred.”

The Black teen was visiting from Missouri when he appeared to fatally fall from his seat while riding the Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park last week. Videos emerged on Twitter and other social platforms showing the unimaginable incident. And renowned civil rights attorney Ben Crump has been hired to represent the father of the late teen.

“The report confirmed the 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 restraint opening range,” Fried said.

“These mis-adjustments 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.”

As the investigation continues, the state agency will look into “many other potential contributing factors that may have played a role in the incident,” Fried said during the news conference.

Fried, a 2022 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, said that the agency will “look towards potential penalties, along with any changes of rules and regulations needed to help prevent future tragedies.”

more to come…

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.