Orlando FreeFall: Florida lawmaker calls for 'loophole' in law to be closed after teenager died on ride
ORLANDO, Fla. - A Florida lawmaker wants to remove what she calls a "loophole" in Florida law that did not require the Orlando FreeFall to display a "maximum weight" sign outside the ride.
Tyre Sampson, 14, died after falling off of the Orlando FreeFall ride at ICON Park in Orlando, Florida, 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.
Florida law allows manufacturers of amusement park rides to determine what goes into any passenger limitation signage displayed at the entrance to rides and what stays out of it.
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Tyre Sampson, 14, is pictured in a provided family photo.
Florida House of Representative member Geraldine Thompson, who represents parts of Orlando, said rides should be required by law to display any height or weight restriction.
"We should make sure that there is signage as you approach the ride that indicates any height and weight restrictions," Thompson said. "It absolutely should be mandatory so that, as the consumer approaches the ride, he or she knows what the height and weight restrictions are, and family members and friends who were with that person would know what those restrictions are."
RELATED: Teen falls from Florida ride: Video shows moments leading up to deadly plunge
Thompson commented on social media reports purportedly showing the "rider qualifications" sign displayed outside the Orlando FreeFall, calling it "problematic."
The sign reportedly lists the minimum height for an individual to enter the ride, but does not mention weight. The SlingShot Group of Companies would not disclose to Fox News Digital whether the ride displayed a weight limit prior to the teen's death.
Additionally, Thompson said there needs to be a number of required training hours for amusement park ride operators, adding that the training component should not be a "checkoff" as it currently is.
"I think there needs to be a specific amount of training that's required, a certain amount of hours of training that's required," Thompson said. "For example, when I go to the hair salon, I know that the stylist has received over a hundred and something hours of training, and that assures me that, you know, maybe my hair won't fall off. But, in this instance, we're talking about life and death.
"And I know that a form is completed and sent to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, but this should not just be a checkoff. You know, you check the box, and you send it. There should be a curriculum in terms of what the training will involve and a sign-off and some kind of certification that the operators have completed the required training."
RELATED: Father of teen who fell from ride wants answers: 'This should never happen'
Ken Martin, an amusement park ride safety analyst and consultant, told Fox News Digital that a uniform code is needed to tell amusement parks what passenger limitations need to be displayed, as opposed to the current Florida state law that allows the manufacturer to decide.
Martin said that "multiple causes" led to the incident involving Sampson but said the ride operator should have seen that the shoulder harness was not down sufficiently.
"I think it was multiple causes that led up to this occurrence," Martin said, "Once Mr. Sampson got on the ride, the ride operator should have come around, attempted to pull the shoulder harness over him and lock it. We all saw that … we know that the shoulder restraint did not come down where it was supposed to be and that, you know, is an issue."
An accident report filled out by an employee states that the seat harness was in a locked position after Tyre fell out.
"FreeFall was coming … down the tower. When the magnets engaged, the patron came out of the seat," an employee wrote in the report. "Harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped."
Martin also said there should have been scales outside the ride that would have allowed Sampson to have been weighed appropriately. He added that there are scales made specifically for amusement park rides that don't make an individual's weight visible, but displays the color green or red, which would indicate if they are suitable for the ride.
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Sampson's father said in an interview with FOX 35 that his son could tell something didn't feel right.
"When the ride took off, that's when he was feeling uncomfortable. He was like, ‘This thing is moving.’ … That's when he started freaking out," Yarnell Sampson told FOX 35 Orlando. "He was explaining to his friends next to him … ‘If I don’t make it down … please tell my mom and dad I love them.' For him to say something like that, he must've felt something."
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced it has hired a forensic engineer from Quest Engineering to assist with the investigation of the FreeFall incident.
Nikki Fried, the Florida commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said potential rule changes could result from the investigation if warranted.
RELATED: Orlando FreeFall, Orlando Slingshot: ICON Park demands group shut down both rides to verify safety
In a statement to Fox News Digital, Trevor Arnold, an attorney representing the operator of the Orlando FreeFall, said the operator is working with state departments in their investigations.
"Orlando Eagle Drop continues to cooperate at every level with all state agencies and departments conducting their respective investigations," Arnold said. "Friday’s pledge by Florida lawmakers to effectuate change in our industry is welcome. We are committed to working with those in charge to make a difference, as the safety of the public remains Orlando Eagle Drop’s top priority.
"On Monday, April 4th, we will have staff from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on site. We will continue to provide additional information, as it is appropriate, given our respect for the ongoing investigations."
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