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The Recent Death Of A Teen On The Orlando’s FreeFall Ride Poses The Question As To How Safe Amusement Parks Are

These horrifying incidents that occurred throughout the years, have impacted people's trust towards ride operators and amusement parks.

Amusement parks should be safe and provide an enjoyable experience, with no fear of something awful occurring, but people’s attention has been turned to the various possible safety concerns that may arise as a result of the recent tragedy at Icon Park.

The incident involved Tyre Sampson — a 14-year-old who died plummeting from the Orlando free fall ride at ICON park, due to an “insufficient training” and how he was clearly ‘not harnessed properly,’ according to the independent assessment.

The FreeFall roller coaster, which debuted late last year in the heart of Orlando’s Entertainment District, bills itself as the world’s biggest freestanding drop tower. According to a January news release from the park, 30 people climb to the top, tilt forward, and plummet roughly 400 feet at speeds exceeding 75 mph.

The accident at the Orlando amusement park went viral quickly by reaching many social media platforms.

One question raised in the media is whether or not the victim was too big for the ride. Tyre Sampson was over 300 pounds and stood at 6’5. Because of his stature, Sampson had been turned down for rides on two other attractions that day. Other countries have different weight limitations for rides, such as 287 pounds in Europe, however in the United States there are no weight restrictions.

A representative from the company which designed the ride stated that the harness must have been in full lock, because the ride would not operate if a harness isn’t completely secured. It was said by Nikki Fried, Florida commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, “the Orlando FreeFall and Orlando SlingShot (an adjacent ride) will be closed indefinitely.”

Attorney Michael Haggard told USA TODAY, “It might have been prevented at any point.” “From the moment this was developed until 11 p.m. that fatal night, there were countless failures.”

Social media posts about the incident clearly illustrate that people are scared and angry that this could happen at a trusted “fun” place. Many posts expressed sympathy for the boy and his family. “Rest in peace, it’s not the rides fault nor was it his, it was the workers,” wrote user lily81 on TikTok. “He didn’t deserve that, they could have checked him or done something more to ensure his safety, he was only 14.”

Of course, this hasn’t been the only case of a tragedy at an amusement park.

Consider the case of a 6-year-old who died plummeting from a drop ride at a Colorado amusement park. The deadly accident was caused by “many operator mistakes” and “insufficient training.” 

In a study conducted by the International Association of Amusement Parks (IAAPA) the injury rate in 2020 was 1.0 per million in children’s rides, 0.9 for roller coasters, and 0.5 for family and adult rides. 

The report noted that “about 16% of the injuries were reported to be “serious” (meaning an injury resulting in immediate admission and hospitalization in excess of 24 hours for purposes other than medical observation). The remaining 84% were reportable injuries that were other than serious.” 

The amusement park industry is subject to a lot of oversight, inspections and training.  The companies which operate the rides also have to follow insurance regulations.  Although there is no formal tracking of amusement park injuries, some estimates of being seriously injured on amusement park rides suggest that you are more likely to be struck by lightning. 

Hearing about horrific ride accidents gets much public attention and naturally raises anxiety about safety, but amusement parks and ride operators have to maintain a reputation in order for their businesses to continue. 

John Stine of the ride’s owner Slingshot Group, released a statement on behalf of the company “It’s very difficult to say [what could have gone wrong]. The way the ride is designed, with all the safety features and redundancy, there shouldn’t be an issue. We are deeply saddened and sorry.” 

Cover Image: Pixabay

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