A 14-year-old boy has died after falling from a drop tower ride in an Orlando, Florida amusement park Thursday night. Several law enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics responded to ICON Park late Thursday evening after a 911 caller reported the incident. Witnesses told deputies that someone had fallen off the Orlando Free Fall ride, which opened in December 2021.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office later confirmed that a 14-year-old boy was transported to the hospital, where he died from his injuries. "It appears to be a terrible tragedy," Orange County Sheriff John Mina said during a news conference Friday, adding that the investigation is ongoing. "Our prayers and thoughts are with the family." Mina identified the teen as Tyre Sampson and said that he was visiting Orlando from his home in Missouri with a friend's family.
A video aired on the Today show Friday morning appears to show passengers on the ride discussing issues with a seat restraint Thursday night. The ride then began its trek up the tower before someone is later seen falling from the ride. Employees and witnesses who were interviewed by detectives said everything appeared to be normal. "Everything seemed to be OK and normal," Mina said.
"We are absolutely saddened and devastated by what happened, and our hearts go out this young man's family," John Stine, sales director with the Slingshot Group which owns the ride, told the Associated Press on Friday morning.
The Free Fall ride and an adjacent ride, the Sling Shot, have been closed indefinitely, Stine said. His company operates the two rides at Icon Park, which is located in the city's tourist district along International Drive. "We are cooperating with all other investigations at this time to get to the bottom of what happened," he said.
The group that oversees amusement ride inspections, the Florida Department of Agriculture, launched an investigation and inspectors were at the site on Friday, spokesperson Caroline Stoneciper told the Associated Press. The ride stands 430 feet tall – taller than the Statue of Liberty – and is billed as the world's tallest free-standing drop tower on the park's website. It holds 30 passengers as it rises in the air, rotates around the tower and then tilts to face the ground before free falling at more than 75 mph. The ride has over-the-shoulder restraint harnesses, with two hand grips at the chest level, that riders pull down.