Sensors manually adjusted to double the size on Florida free-fall ride that killed teen, report says

ORLANDO — Sensors on a Florida amusement park ride had been adjusted manually to double the size of the opening for restraints on two seats, resulting in a 14-year-old boy not being properly secured before he slipped out and fell to his death, according to an initial report released Monday by outside engineers.

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The average opening for restraints on the seats on the 430-foot, free-fall amusement park ride located in the heart of Orlando’s tourist district was 3.3 inches. However, the opening of the restraint for the seat used by Tyre Sampson was as much as 7.1 inches, and the one for another seat was 6.5 inches, according to the report commissioned by the Florida Department of Agriculture, which is investigating the accident.

Sampson was only 14 but already 6 feet, 5 inches tall (195 centimeters) and well over 300 pounds when he slipped out of his seat as the ride plunged to the ground at speeds of 75 mph or more.


An inspection of the seats showed that sensors used to activate safety lights on the two seats, indicating the harness safety restraints were in place, had been adjusted to allow for the wider openings, the report said.

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“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 sensors,” said the report from Quest Engineering and Failure Analysis, Inc.

The Orlando FreeFall ride, which is taller than the Statue of Liberty, didn’t experience any electrical or mechanical failure, the report said.

The release of the report marks the initial phase of the investigation into the teen’s death, and “we are far from done,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said at a news conference in Orlando.