A seat on an amusement park ride in Florida that a 14-year-old boy fell from last month after his death was manually adjusted and unsafe, according to an accident report released Monday.
The sensors on two of the seats on the Orlando FreeFall have been adjusted to work while those seats had apertures nearly twice as large as normal, according to a report by the forensic engineering firm hired by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services . to investigate the cause of the accident.
That amendment allowed Tire Sampson to fall off the ride, which is considered “the world’s tallest free-standing fall tower,” on March 24 while visiting ICON Park from his home in Missouri. The ride did not experience any mechanical or electrical failure, the report found.
“The cause of the accident in question was that Tire Sampson was not fastened properly in the seat, mainly due to incorrect adjustment of the harness proximity sensor,” the report reads. “The incorrect adjustment of the sensor allowed both safety lights to illuminate, which improperly satisfied the ride’s electronic safety mechanisms, which allowed the ride to start even though the ride was unsafe.”
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At FreeFall, which opened late last year in the middle of Orlando’s entertainment district, 30 riders ascend, tilt forward and dive nearly 400 feet at speeds exceeding 75 mph, according to a January news release from the park.
The average opening is about 3 inches, but on the two adjusted seats, the gap was about 6 inches, according to the report. The gap may have widened during the ride, and as the appeal slowed, the Tire slipped between the seat and the harness.
The safety harness on his seat was “still in an off and locked position when the ride stopped,” according to a previous report.
Trevor Arnold, an Orlando Slingshot attorney who owns and operates the ride, said in a statement that the group “followed all protocols, procedures and safety measures provided by the ride manufacturer”.
“Today’s report presents a complete overview of the ride’s design, safety, operation, restraint mechanisms and history – which we naturally welcome,” Arnold said in a statement.
A spokesperson for ICON Park said in a statement that the company was “deeply upset” about the preliminary findings of the state’s investigation.
The seats have been adjusted “presumably to accommodate larger riders,” state rep. Geraldine Thompson said at a news conference on Monday, but it is unclear who adjusted the seats and when.
Florida Commissioner for Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried said the investigation is continuing and the ride will remain closed indefinitely.
“There are many other potential contributing factors that may have played a role in the incident,” she said on Monday. “While the initial phase of our investigation has been completed, we are far from finished uncovering all the facts and factors needed to inform about the next steps.”
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