The tragic incident which claimed the life of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson happened at the Icon Theme Park in southwest Orlando. The young boy from Missouri had travelled to Florida for a holiday with a friend’s family. Mr. Sampson died at around 11 pm as the family of his friends watched on helplessly.
Sheriff’s officials and emergency crews responded to a call late Thursday at the Orlando Free Fall ride, which opened late last year at Icon Park on the city’s International Drive.
Local Sheriff John Mina said: “It appears to be just a terrible tragedy.
“We will see moving forward what that results in.”
A video aired by NBC’s “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.
John Stine, sales director with the Slingshot Group which owns the ride, told The Associated Press: “We are absolutely saddened and devastated by what happened, and our hearts go out this young man’s family.
“We are cooperating with all other investigations at this time to get to the bottom of what happened.”
The Florida Department of Agriculture, which oversees amusement ride inspections with the exception of the state’s largest theme parks, has launched an investigation and inspectors were at the site Friday, spokesperson Caroline Stoneciper said in an email.
The ride stands 430-feet (131-meters) tall, and is billed as the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower, according to the park’s website.
The ride 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 website said.
The ride has over-the-shoulder restraint harnesses, with two hand grips at the chest level, that riders pull down and then they are released automatically at the end of the ride.
Mr. Sampson and his friends had been told moments earlier there were no seat belts on the ride as they prepared for the ride to begin.
The only safety precaution on the ride was the over shoulder harness designed to plug in between the legs of riders.
One rider was concerned about the lack of seatbelts on the ride, only to hear the attendant saying: “There ain’t no seatbelts.”
Upon the ride starting, the carousel went up in the air and paused for around 10 seconds before hurtling back to Earth.
Mr Sampson was seen by onlookers to fall from his seat shortly afterwards, landing on the ground.
Once the ride had returned to the starting position, a video captured after the horrific accident shows a park employee run over to the ride attendant and ask: “You didn’t check it!?”
He insisted he had and she asked again: “Are you sure?”
Mr. Sampson’s family paid tribute to him on social media as a “gentle giant”.
His stepmother Wendy said: “Tyre was a respectful gentle giant.
“You will be truly missed son.”
Park employees say they initially thought his body was a piece of the ride that had broken off until they saw the boy lying on the ground.
It’s unclear what the minimum height restriction for the ride is or how he could have fallen out of his harness.
It is the second accident at the park in two years. In 2020, a park employee died while working on the StarFlyer ride.