The Florida Legislature passed a bill aimed at implementing more stringent safety regulations for amusement park rides just over a year after 14-year-old Tire Sampson fell from a ride and died.
Sampson died on March 24, 2022, after falling off the Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park in Orlando.
An operating manual for the ride states the maximum passenger weight is just over 286 pounds. Sampson was 6-foot-5 and reportedly weighed 360 pounds.
According to Bay News 9, SB 902, authored by state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, would require that permanent amusement park rides submit a commissioning and certification report with the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
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The bill changes the circumstances that require ride owners to report an incident, which in some cases could result in it being shut down by the state.
Additionally, the bill requires signs that advise people of ride restrictions, such as maximum and minimum height and weight – something that was a focal point in Sampson’s incident.
The bill would require that such signs be “prominently displayed” at the entrance of each ride.
If a ride has an operating manual that doesn’t include such restrictions, the bill would require a qualified inspector to confirm that no restrictions exist.
In previous comments to Fox News Digital, Thompson said that amusement park attendees need to know when restrictions exist on rides.
“We should make sure that there is signage as you approach the ride that indicates any height and weight restrictions,” Thompson said. “It absolutely should be mandatory so that, as the consumer approaches the ride, he or she knows what the height and weight restrictions are, and family members and friends who were with that person would know what those restrictions are.”
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A Twitter post showing the signage outside the Orlando FreeFall didn’t include weight requirements, but did include a minimum and maximum height.
SB 904, a separate bill passed by the state Legislature, aims to make records regarding ongoing investigations on amusement park not available to the public.
If signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the bills would take effect July 1.
The company that operated the Orlando FreeFall and Orlando Slingshot, has said that it supports the bill honoring Sampson.
Orlando Slingshot announced in October 2022 that the ride would be torn down.
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“Orlando Slingshot announced it has decided to take down the 400-foot-tall FreeFall ride attraction on International Drive. The decision resulted from the accidental death of Tire Sampson on March 24,” the company said in a statement.
The ride has been closed since the incident happened.
Nikki Fried, former Florida commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said maladjustments made to the seat’s proximity sensor triggered the safety light, incorrectly 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.”
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A report by the department states the harness of the seat Sampson was in had a proximity sensor that “was manually loosened, adjusted, and tightened to allow a restraint opening of nearly 7 inches.”
Normally, the range is around 3 inches, according to the report.