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Florida levies $250,000 fine against Slingshot Group in free fall teenager’s death

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida state officials have filed an administrative complaint against Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot, LLC in connection with the tragic death of 14-year-old Tire Sampson, who fell 70 feet from the Free Fall ride at ICON Park earlier this year.

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried made the announcement Tuesday.

“Today, my department issued an administrative complaint alleging multiple violations of Florida law related to these findings,” Fried said. “We are seeking an administrative penalty in excess of $250,000 – one of the largest ever sought and a permanent revocation of our license to operate in the state of Florida.”

She added: “Given the magnitude of this incident, it was important to me that the department take the necessary time to conduct a thorough investigation and get this right.”

In March, an driving review discovered that the proximity sensor on Tyre’s seat had been manually moved to allow for a larger tether opening than the other seats in the ride.

The riding weight limit for the rider was limited to 287 pounds, however, autopsy results showed the teenager weighed 383 pounds. A driving safety analyst said it should never they are allowed to board the ride.

“Because the seat belt proximity sensor was improperly adjusted, the ride was allowed to begin even though it was unsafe and led directly to [Tyre’s] fall,” Fried said.

Tyre’s autopsy results showed that the 14-year-old suffered severe internal injuries, as well as head, neck and torso injuries. His injuries included a broken arm, a broken leg, a fractured jaw and several broken ribs.

His death was ruled an accident.

Fried said there was no driver training manual and noted that drivers received minimal training.

Fried was also joined by State Senator Geraldine Thompson to share a series of legislative proposals to increase driving safety across the state.

The proposals included expanded signature disclosure requirements for sponsor qualifications. Currently, the law only requires the installation of markings by vehicle manufacturers.

Fried also proposed an increased number of “safety system checks” before engineers sign off during the permitting process, an updated “major modification” term to include any changes to safety systems and an increase in required reporting of amusement ride accidents.

“Finally, we want to request new positions with the sole mission of inspecting permanent ride facilities and traveling fairs and trade shows to oversee safe operations and verify training of on-site personnel during operations,” Fried said.

Security supervisors would make unannounced visits to ensure security is being monitored.

In response to Tuesday’s announcement, attorneys for the Orlando Slingshot ride said, “We continue to support the changes to Florida law put forth today by Agriculture Commissioner Fried and Senator Thompson. We share their goal of preventing a tragic accident like the one involving Tyre from ever happening again. We are working closely with FDACS and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in their investigations. From the moment the accident happened, we have cooperated with the authorities and will continue to do so with full transparency.

“Immediately following this tragic accident, we immediately conducted an investigation and took appropriate action as a result of that investigation. This included the suspension of two employees based on the results of our internal investigation. We also brought in two outside firms to improve training, maintenance and safety practices. We have taken these steps to ensure that our business continues to comply with applicable standards and recommendations.”

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