The Orlando Free Fall, the 430-foot drop tower at ICON Park from which 14-year-old Tyre Sampson fatally fell last March, will start coming down next week.
The St. Louis teen’s mother, Nekia Dodd, is relieved the ride will be taken down before the anniversary of Tyre’s death on March 24, lawyer Michael Haggard said in a statement. She has pushed for it to be dismantled since her son died but hopes its removal “does not remove the memory of this tragedy,” he said.
“Ms. Dodd remains focused on real change in the oversight and operation of thrill rides and accountability by any party involved in failing to keep theme park guests safe,” Haggard said. “It is a part of Tyre’s legacy, a legacy that can never be stripped down.”
Trevor Arnold, a lawyer representing ride operator Orlando Slingshot, said the company hired amusement business Ride Entertainment to coordinate the Free Fall’s deconstruction. A crane will arrive next week to start taking the Free Fall apart, he said.
“That activity is expected to continue into the following week because of the large size of the ride,” Arnold said in a statement. “We hope to have the ride fully deconstructed before the anniversary of Tyre Sampson’s tragic death, and we will continue to work in that direction and give timeline updates as they are available.”
Tyre died after slipping through a restraint that state investigators found Orlando Slingshot had modified to accommodate larger riders. The 383-pound teen was allowed on the ride despite exceeding the attraction’s weight limit by nearly 100 pounds, and the state claimed employees were not properly trained on the ride’s operation.
Orlando Slingshot initially denied the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ allegations but settled with the agency last month, paying a $250,000 fine and agreeing to never operate the Orlando Free Fall again.
In October, the company pledged to take the ride down once the state inquiry concluded and start a scholarship in Tyre’s name. Tyre’s family has said they also want a memorial to him put up at the site.
A final inspection of the ride occurred Feb. 23, clearing the Free Fall for dismantlement after the state’s investigation ended and parties in the civil lawsuit surrounding Tyre’s death finished their survey of the attraction.
State Sen. Geraldine Thompson filed a ride safety bill in Tyre’s name in February that aims to strengthen gaps in ride safety laws found during the state’s probe. Haggard and ride safety expert Brian Avery praised the bill but criticized companion legislation that would keep records in ride safety investigations private longer.
[email protected] and @katievrice on Twitter