The teenager who fell to his death at a Florida theme park on March 24 was sitting in a seat where safety sensors had been modified, a report revealed.
Tire Samson, 14, was out with a friend and family at Florida’s Icon Park and the group rode Free Fall. On Monday, investigators discovered that Sampson fell off the ride feet first, slipped on the seat’s speaker and fell to the ground.
A new report from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) revealed that the Orlando drop tower operator allegedly made manual adjustments to the ride, resulting in it being unsafe, it said. FDACS Commissioner Nikki Fried at a news conference Monday.
“This report confirmed our department’s finding that the operator of the Orlando drop tower made manual adjustments to the ride, resulting in it being unsafe.” He added that the adjustment “allowed the opening of the harness restraint system to be nearly twice the normal range of restraint system opening.”
Ms. Fried said that “these misadjustments allowed the safety lights to come on and properly satisfy the ride’s electronic safety mechanism which allowed the ride to operate even though Mr. Samson was not properly secured in his seat.”
The FDACS commissioner is still investigating the case and said there could be other factors that contributed to the teen’s death.
“Given these outstanding concerns, the launch tower will remain closed indefinitely,” said Ms. Fried.
The report mentioned that the seat had been adjusted to allow for a gap of 6 to 7 inches wide and still record that it was securely fastened, even though all other seats had a gap of only 3.33 inches.
However, the report did not mention whether Samson, a 6-foot-5-inch-tall teenager, should have been allowed on the ride in the first place.
Samson’s family also said the teen weighed more than 300 pounds and was turned away from other attractions in the park due to safety concerns stemming from his size.
A manual for the site says: “Be careful to see if large guests will fit in the seats. Check that they fit within the contours of the seat and that the bracket fits correctly. If this is not so, do not let this person travel.”
The family is contemplating legal action against the theme park. Lawyer Ben Crump had said “apart from the tragic torture video of George Floyd, I think this is the worst tragedy captured on video that I have ever seen.”
He said Samson’s death was “completely preventable” and added that “we are doing a thorough investigation into the tragic murder of this 14-year-old boy who should never have been killed.”