A newly released report detailing the circumstances surrounding the death of Tyre Sampson has concluded that the teen slipped from his seat on the Orlando FreeFall because someone manually adjusted a safety sensor.

What You Need To Know

The sensor was in place to make sure the seat harnesses on the ride were pulled down far enough to ensure the riders' safety — if any single seat's sensor indicated an unsafe condition, safety lights would not turn on and the ride would not operate, the report by Quest Engineering & Failure Analysis said. 

Orange County Sheriff's Office investigators said Sampson, 14 — who had come to Orlando from St. Louis for spring break — died after slipping out of his seat and falling from the 430-foot tower drop ride just after 11 p.m. on March 24. 

According to the teen's family, he weighed more than 300 pounds, which was more than the ride's maximum allowed weight of approximately 287 pounds.

While that discrepancy was already public knowledge, Quest Engineering's report indicated that a "mis-adjustment" of the seat safety sensor was the actual cause of Sampson's fall.

The average opening allowed by the safety sensor for 27 of the ride's 30 seats was about 3.3 inches — Sampson's seat had been manually adjusted to allow an opening of 7.19 inches, the report said. One other seat had been adjusted to allow an opening of more than 6 inches and a third was not in operation at the time of the accident.

With an opening more than twice the size of the other seats, Quest's investigation found that with pressure from Sampson's body weight, the opening between seat and harness could have "grown to as much as 10 inches" while the ride was underway. 

"During slowing of the ride, Tyre Sampson slipped through the gap between the seat and harness, which may have expanded several inches due to inherent seat and harness compliance," the report said, noting also that the ride's deceleration was four times the force of gravity at the time.

Investigators said the situation was recreated on the ground using similarly sized individuals — one person was 6 feet, 3 inches tall, the other was 6 feet, 5 inches tall and both weighed between 200 and 300 pounds. 

"During our investigation, two individuals were positioned in a seat with an opening ranging from 6 to 10 inches," the report said. "Both individuals were able to slip through the restraint opening without any assistance."

The report concluded that Sampson's fall was not caused by a physical or mechanical failure of the ride itself, and placed the blame mainly on the adjustments made to the safety sensor.

"The cause of the subject accident was that Tyre 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 and allowing the ride to commence even though the ride was unsafe."

The report's authors wrote that their findings should not be used to indicate that the ride itself would have been completely safe even if the safety sensor had not been adjusted.

"There are many other potential contributions to the cause of the accident and this report in no way assures the safety of the ride in the normal, adjusted or unadjusted harness positions," the report said. "A full review of the ride's design, safety, operation, restraint mechanisms and history should be performed, as this report just focuses on the physical evidence of the failure of the ride to secure Tyre Sampson."

The Orlando FreeFall has been shut down since the accident. 

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried addressed the report during a Monday press conference, saying it would guide her office's next steps in the response to Sampson's death.

In an emailed statement, she was quoted as saying:

“This report answers the question of what mechanically took place as our investigation now enters its next phase of how and why it occurred as we look towards potential penalties along with any potential changes of rules and regulations needed. As noted in the report, there are many other potential contributing factors that may have played a role in this incident, and that is what our Department is continuing to investigate. Given these outstanding concerns, the Drop Tower will remain closed indefinitely. 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 next steps. As soon as the full investigation is complete, we will immediately make changes to our rules if needed under our existing authorities as well as pursue statutory changes with our legislative partners if necessary to help prevent future tragedies.”

Officials from ICON Park also released a statement in reaction to the Quest Engineering report, saying its findings were concerning.

"We are deeply troubled that the preliminary findings of the state's investigation indicate a sensor on the Orlando FreeFall attraction, which is owned and operated by the SlingShot Group, had been mis-adjusted after the sensor was originally secured in place. ICON Park is committed to providing a safe, fun experience for families. We will continue to support the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services with their ongoing investigation."


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