Orlando FreeFall: Florida officials release 'framework' for proposed amusement park ride safety legislation

Florida lawmakers are calling for increased training standards for amusement park ride operators

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services released a framework for proposed ride safety legislation following an incident in March where a teenager died after falling off an amusement park ride.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried said during a news conference on Wednesday that ride safety is "not a partisan issue" while releasing the framework.

The framework for ride safety legislation includes the following:

  • Increased signage posting requirements from manufacturer to include amusement park ride requirements, warnings, and/or exclusions.
  • Add authority for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to adopt rules for employee training to implement a "minimum standard" for training documentation, ride operator training, and retraining.
  • Increase the reporting requirements for maintenance documentation as well as any changes made to the safety systems and restraints.
  • Authorize the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to require permanent rides to get a 3rd party review and certification performed by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory.
  • A new requirement stating that safety sensors and other limiting devices cannot be capable of adjustments that "exceed the maximum tolerance from the original manufacturer’s settings." It would also require the ride operator to share data from the department on "all tolerances, settings, and specifications related to patron restraints and safety systems."
  • Increase the required accident reporting standards for amusement park rides. Currently, ride owners are only required to report incidents where an individual receives injures that require them to be taken to a hospital. The proposed change would modify the standard to include "any patron that requires emergency services regardless of what type of facility they visit for emergency treatment."
  • Add new job positions to the department which would perform unannounced inspections of the ride to ensure proper regulations are being followed, in addition to checking if ride conditions are safe.

ORLANDO FREEFALL: FLORIDA LAWMAKER 'VERY CONCERNED' AFTER REPORT SHOWS TEEN WAS 'NOT PROPERLY SECURED'

The family of Tyre Sampson, 14, has filed a wrong death lawsuit against the Florida amusement park where he fell to his death while on a ride.

The family of Tyre Sampson, 14, has filed a wrong death lawsuit against the Florida amusement park where he fell to his death while on a ride. (FOX 35 Orlando)

Florida House of Representatives member Geraldine Thompson said at the news conference that she would like to see signage outside of rides that include requirements pertaining to weight.

During the conference, Fried said the legislation will not include Walt Disney World and Universal Studios due to a Florida Statute which states that theme parks that have more than 1,000 employees and full-time employees are exempt from the department's authorities.

Tyre Sampson, 14, died after falling off of the Orlando FreeFall ride at ICON Park in Orlando, Florida, on March 24.

A ride operator filed an accident report, noting that the seat harness of the Orlando FreeFall was in a locked position after the 14-year-old fell out and died.

"FreeFall was coming to [sic] down the tower. When the magnets engaged, the patron came out of the seat," the employee wrote. "Harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped."

During the news conference, officials expressed that they want the legislation to be named after Sampson.

A Quest Engineering report released by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in April states that a "proximity sensor" for the harness being used by Sampson was "manually loosened," meaning Sampson wasn't properly secured in his seat.

ORLANDO FREEFALL: FLORIDA LAWMAKER CALLS FOR 'LOOPHOLE' IN LAW TO BE CLOSED AFTER TEENAGER DIED ON RIDE

ICON Park attractions, The Wheel, left, Orlando SlingShot, middle, and Orlando FreeFall, right, are shown in Orlando, Fla., on March 24, 2022.

ICON Park attractions, The Wheel, left, Orlando SlingShot, middle, and Orlando FreeFall, right, are shown in Orlando, Fla., on March 24, 2022. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP, file)

Nikki Fried, Florida commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, said during a news conference after the report was released that "maladjustments" were made to the seat's proximity sensor that allowed a safety light to illuminate, allowing Sampson to ride even though he was not "properly secured in the seat." 

"These maladjustments 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," Fried said. "The report confirms that manual adjustments had been made to the sensor for the seat in question that allowed the harness' restraint opening to be almost double that of the normal restraints opening range."

ORLANDO FREEFALL: FLORIDA LAW 'LOOPHOLE' MAY HAVE LEFT TEEN RIDER IN DEATH TRAP: EXPERT

FILE - The Orlando Free Fall drop tower in ICON Park in Orlando is pictured on Monday, March 28, 2022. A Missouri teenager died of blunt force trauma after falling from the 430-foot (130-meter) Florida drop-tower amusement park ride, according to an autopsy released Monday, June 13, 2022. 

FILE - The Orlando Free Fall drop tower in ICON Park in Orlando is pictured on Monday, March 28, 2022. A Missouri teenager died of blunt force trauma after falling from the 430-foot (130-meter) Florida drop-tower amusement park ride, according to an autopsy released Monday, June 13, 2022.  ((Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP, File))

The ride has been closed since the incident on March 24, and depending on the outcome of the department's investigation, it could be closed for good, Fried said during a previous news conference.

Lawyers for Sampson's family have filed lawsuits against the Slingshot Group of Companies, which operates the Orlando FreeFall, as well as ICON Park, where the ride is located. The lawsuits also target the ride manufacturers.

FLORIDA FREEFALL TEEN DEATH: RIDE SAFETY EXPERT HARNESS 'WAS NOT ON CORRECTLY'

Tourists enjoy the rides and amenities at ICON Park in Orlando on Thursday, March 24, 2022. International Drive, long considered a tourist-centered stretch between Orlando's major theme parks, has thrived during the pandemic by rebranding itself as a place for locals to gather too.

Tourists enjoy the rides and amenities at ICON Park in Orlando on Thursday, March 24, 2022. International Drive, long considered a tourist-centered stretch between Orlando's major theme parks, has thrived during the pandemic by rebranding itself as a place for locals to gather too. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

ICON Park filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against it on June 27, with lawyers arguing in a court filing that "Plaintiffs have failed to plead any ultimate facts that would put the Icon Defendants on notice of exactly whose conduct or for what conduct they are seeking to hold the Icon Defendants 'vicariously liable.'"

Lawyers for Sampson's family are requesting a jury trial.

A spokesperson for Orlando Slingshot, which operates the Orlando FreeFall, told Fox News Digital that they support the framework.

"We support the framework of the new ‘Tyre Sampson Bill’ for increasing amusement park safety measures outlined by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Florida Senator Randolph Bracy, and Florida Rep. Geraldine Thompson today. We are always focused on the safety of our patrons and we look forward to working with the Florida legislature to implement changes in the industry," the spokesperson said.