June 15, 2024

Florida lawmakers unanimously pass ‘Tyre Sampson Act’

2 min read

By: Tony Akins

Passage of the Tyre Sampson Act comes 13 months after 14-year-old Tyre Sampson fell to his death from the FreeFall, which was dismantled in March, leaving an empty lot in front of ICON Park.

Local lawmakers Geraldine Thompson and LaVon Bracy Davis sponsored the companion bills.

“It sends a signal that we take this (ride safety) very seriously and we don’t want the kind of tragedy that occurred in March of 2022 to ever be repeated,” Thompson said.

“While we are thankful that we are passing this legislation it’s a sad day that it had to be as a result of this untimely and preventable accident,” Davis said.

Under the Tyre Sampson Act, 14 new safety inspectors will be hired at a cost of $1.4 million annually. Ride operators will also pay the fees for unannounced inspections and safety tests. There are also new employee training requirements.

Rides must have signage addressing height, weight, health and age restrictions. Ride operators will have to report all injuries that result in hospital or clinic visits, and any ride safety adjustments made after it’s certified must be reported to the state.

“That is the goal, to make Florida safer,” Michael Haggard, Sampson Family Attorney, said.

While Sampson family attorney Michael Haggard supports the new ride bill, he’s not happy with a related measure {SB 902} that will shield from the public, investigative records generated in the wake of a ride accident.

For example, WESH 2 Investigates first reported days after Sampson’s fatal fall that the operator’s manual showed a maximum weight limit of 287 pounds per rider. Tyre weighed 383 pounds, and his seat was improperly adjusted to accommodate his size.

“So to go backwards and exempt records, not only from the media but from the family themselves about what actually happened to their loved ones, I think is a mistake,” Haggard said.

It took weeks to take down the 430-foot tall drop tower ride, which cannot be rebuilt anywhere in Florida.

A lawsuit filed by the family of Tyre Sampson against the ride owner, Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot, has been settled, and the company also paid a $250,000 fine for ride safety violations cited by the state.

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