A seat on a Florida amusement park ride that a 14-year-old boy fell to his death from last month was manually adjusted and unsafe, according to an accident report released Monday.
The sensors on two of the seats on the Orlando FreeFall had been modified so it could operate while those seats had openings almost twice as large as normal, according to a report from the forensic engineering firm hired by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to investigate the cause of the accident.
That modification allowed Tire Sampson to fall from the ride, billed as “the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower,” on March 24 while he was visiting ICON Park from his home in Missouri. The ride did not experience a mechanical or electrical failure, the report found.
“The cause of the subject accident was that Tire Sampson was not properly secured in the seat primarily due to mis-adjustment of the harness proximity sensor,” the report said. “The mis-adjustment of the sensor allowed both safety lights to illuminate, improperly satisfying the ride’s electronic safety mechanisms allowing the ride to commence even though the ride was unsafe.”
‘SHOCKED AND HEARTBROKEN’:14-year-old dies in fall from massive drop tower in Florida
On FreeFall, which opened in the center of Orlando’s Entertainment District late last year, 30 riders rise to the top, tilt forward and plunge nearly 400 feet at speeds reaching over 75 mph, according to a January release from the park.
The average restraint opening is about 3 inches, but on the two modified seats the gap was around 6 inches, according to the report. The gap may have expanded even further during the ride and as the attraction slowed, Tire slipped through the gap between the seat and the harness.
The safety harness on his seat was “still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped,” according to a previous report.
Trevor Arnold, an attorney for Orlando Slingshot, which owns and operates the ride, said in a statement the group followed “all protocols, procedures and safety measures provided” by the ride’s manufacturer.
“Today’s report suggests a full review of the ride’s design, safety, operation, restraint mechanisms and history – which of course we welcome,” Arnold said in a statement.
A spokesperson from ICON Park said in a statement the company is “deeply troubled” by the preliminary findings of the state’s investigation.
The seats were adjusted “presumably to allow for larger riders,” Rep. Geraldine Thompson said at a press conference Monday, but it’s unclear who adjusted the seats and when.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried said the investigation is ongoing and the ride will remain closed indefinitely.
“There are many other potential contributing factors that may have played a role in the incident,” she said Monday. “While the initial phase of our investigation is complete, we are far from done uncovering all of the facts and factors at play that are needed to inform of the next steps.”
Contact Breaking News Reporter N’dea Yancey-Bragg at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @NdeaYanceyBragg