A Florida lawmaker tells Fox News Digital that she’s “very concerned” after a state-funded engineering report on the Orlando FreeFall came to a conclusion that the teenager who fell off the ride was “not properly secured” in his seat due to modifications made to the seat.
Tire Sampson, 14, died after falling off of the Orlando FreeFall ride at ICON Park in Orlando, Florida, on March 24. An operating manual for the Orlando FreeFall states that the maximum passenger weight is just over 286 pounds. Sampson was 6 feet, 5 inches tall and reportedly weighed 360 pounds.
The report commissioned by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, conducted by Quest Engineering, released its field investigation report on Monday, which states that a “proximity sensor” for the harness being used by Sampson was “manually loosened,” which meant that Sampson wasn’t properly secured in his seat.
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Florida House of Representatives member Geraldine Thompson, who represents parts of Orlandotold Fox News Digital she is “very concerned” that adjustments were made after state inspectors looked at the ride in December 2021.
“I was very concerned that adjustments were made after the state inspectors arrived and after the permit had been issued,” Thompson said.
Nikki Fried, the Florida commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, said during a Monday press conference that the maladjustments made to the seat’s proximity sensor allowed the safety light to aluminate, allowing Sampson to ride even though he was not “properly secured in the seat. “
“These maladjustments 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,” Fried said. The report confirms that 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 restraints opening range. “
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The report states that the harness which Sampson occupied had a proximity sensor which “was manually loosened, adjusted, and tightened to allow a restraint opening of near 7 inches.”
Normally, the range is around three inches, according to the report.
Thompson said she’s also concerned because the SlingShot Group of Companies, which operates the Orlando FreeFall, also operates other amusement park rides across Florida.
She said that there will need to be a heavy look taken at the training regulations for ride operators.
“I think there should be a minimum number of hours, there ought to be certification, and any time any adjustment is made to a ride, it has to be reported to the state,” Thompson said. “And that would trigger a re-inspection.”
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Thompson also said that inspections for amusement park rides need to be quarterly, and said there’s “a lot” that needs to be looked at following the Orlando FreeFall incident.
In a statement to Fox News Digital, Trevor Arnold, an attorney representing the operator of the Orlando FreeFall, said it has cooperated with the state during its initial phase of the investigation, and will continue to do so.
“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 The 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, “Arnold said.
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The ride has been closed since the incident happened on March 24, and depending on the outcome of the department’s investigation, it could be closed for good, Fried said during a previous press conference.
Fox News’ Jon Brown contributed to this report