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Ride operator made changes to sensors on seats before boy died on Orlando Free Fall ride, report says

Florida state officials released a preliminary report into the death of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson, the Missouri boy who fell from a free-fall ride in Orlando last month.
/ Source: TODAY

A new report about the death of a 14-year-old boy who fell off a ride at an Orlando amusement park last month found that the ride’s operator made some changes to sensors on the teenager’s seat before his fatal fall. 

Tyre Sampson died on March 24 on the Free Fall ride at Orlando's Icon Park after he slipped out of his seat and plummeted to the ground. The ride takes guests up to 430 feet in the air and drops at 75 mph.

According to an independent engineering firm hired by the state, the operator allegedly changed sensors on a pair of seats, including the one where Sampson sat. That modification left him “not properly secured,” according to the report.

The Free Fall ride at Icon Park in Orlando is pictured on March 28, 2022. Tyre Sampson, 14, was killed when he fell from the ride.Stephen M. Dowell / Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The state officials' report said the adjustments on Sampson’s seat resulted in his safety harness opening from its normal range of three inches to almost seven inches.

“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. “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 operator of the Orlando Drop Tower made manual adjustments to the ride, resulting in it being unsafe,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said.

“These misadjustments allowed the ride to operate, even though Mr. Sampson was not properly secured in the seat,” she added.  

Icon Park said in a statement it was “deeply troubled” by the report.

Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot LLC, which owns the Free Fall ride, told NBC News in a statement, “All protocols, procedures and safety measures provided to us by the manufacturer of the ride were followed ..."

Sampson’s family said the teen weighed nearly 360 pounds and he was not allowed on other rides at the park because of his concerns over his weight.

Mike Haggard, a lawyer representing the family in civil matters, said he believed the state may want to consider taking criminal action in this case.

“When you start talking about intentional conduct and you start manipulating seats for profit, I think that you start getting into some intentional conduct that the State Attorney’s Office should possibly look at,” he said.