By MIKE SCHNEIDER Associated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The parents of a 14-year-old boy who fell to his death from a 430-foot (131-meter) drop-tower ride in central Florida’s tourist district sued its owner, manufacturer and landlord on Monday, claiming they were negligent and failed to provide a safe amusement ride.
The parents of Tyre Sampson said in the lawsuit filed in state court in Orlando that the defendants failed to warn their 6-foot-2-inch (188-centimeter), 380-pound (172-kilogram) son about the risks of someone of his size going on the ride and didn’t provide an appropriate restraint system on the ride.
While most free-fall rides have a shoulder harness and a seatbelt, the Orlando Free Fall ride had only an over-the-shoulder harness. Adding seatbelts to the ride’s 30 seats would have cost $660, the lawsuit said.
At the time of the accident last month, Sampson was on spring break, visiting from the St. Louis area.
“The defendants in Tyre’s case showed negligence in a multitude of ways,” said attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing Sampson’s family. “From the ride and seat manufacturers and the installer to the owners and operators, the defendants had more than enough chances to enact safeguards, such as seatbelts, that could have prevented Tyre’s death.”
An attorney for the ride’s owner, Orlando Slingshot, said the company was continuing to cooperate with state investigators into what happened. “We reiterate that all protocols, procedures and safety measures provided by the manufacturer of the ride were followed,” attorney Trevor Arnold said in an emailed statement.
A spokesman for the landlord, ICON Park, didn’t comment immediately on the lawsuit.
Last week, an initial report by outside engineers hired by the Florida Department of Agriculture said that sensors on the ride had been adjusted manually to double the size of the opening for restraints on two seats, resulting in Sampson not being properly secured before he slipped out and fell to his death.
The Orlando Free Fall ride, which is taller than the Statue of Liberty, didn’t experience any electrical or mechanical failures, the report said.
The report said there were many other “potential contributions” to the accident and that a full review of the ride’s design and operations was needed.