Florida ride operator error suspected in death of teen

Officials said Monday that the ride malfunctioned causing the teen’s death in part because of an operator error (Picture: AP)

Operator error is believed to be the primary cause in the death of a 14-year-old boy who fell to his death after slipping out of his seat on a ride at a Florida amusement park, officials said Monday.

Tyre Sampson, 14, slipped out of his seat on the Free Fall ride at Orlando’s Icon Park on March 24 and fell to his death.

A newly released report found that the ride’s operator made some changes to sensors on some of the seats, including the one seating the teenager, before he plummeted to his death on the ride, which takes passengers up to 430 feet in the air before dropping at 75 mph.

Nikki Fried, commissioner of the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said Monday that a forensic engineering firm determined the ride’s operator ‘made manual adjustments to the ride resulting in it being unsafe.’

That independent study found that the modification to the seats left Sampson ‘not properly secured’ when the ride took off.

‘Manual adjustments had been made to the sensor for the seat in question that allowed the harness-to-restraint opening to be almost double that of the normal restraint-opening range,’ Fried said at a news conference.

‘These mis-adjustments allowed the safety lights to illuminate, improperly satisfying the ride’s electronic safety mechanisms that allowed the ride to operate even though Mr. Sampson was not properly secured in the seat,’ she said.

The adjustments on Sampson’s seat were likely due to his size. His family had previously said that the teen weighed nearly 360 pounds, and was denied entrance to several other rides at the park because of concerns over his weight.

The investigation still remains open, however, as officials are unsure if other factors in addition to operator error contributed to the teenager’s death.

ICON Park said in a statement Monday it is ‘deeply troubled’ by the findings of the report that the ride’s sensor ‘had been mis-adjusted after the sensor was originally secured in place.’

‘”ICON Park is committed to providing a safe, fun experience for families,’ the statement said. ‘We will continue to support the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services with their ongoing investigation.’

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