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An amusement park ride safety expert says that the teenager who passed away after falling off of the Orlando FreeFall did not have his harness placed in the correct position, which opened the door for the tragic incident to happen.
Tire Sampson, 14, died after falling off of the Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park on March 24.
Brian Avery, a University of Florida lecturer and ride safety expert, told Fox News Digital that Sampson’s harness was not on him correctly.
“In my opinion, it was not on correctly… it was resting on his stomach is what it appears in the videos that I’ve reviewed, and that it was not touching or close to the seat pan and/or in-between his crotch , which should have been the proper positioning of that to ensure that there was no gap between the base of the harness and/or the seat pan itself,” Avery said.
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An accident report filled out by an employee states that the seat harness was in a locked position after Tire fell out.
“FreeFall was coming to [sic] down the tower. When the magnets engaged, the boss came out of the seat,” an employee wrote in the report. “Harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped.”
He said that the larger the gap between the base of the harness and the seat pan, the bigger the risk.
“If you have a gap, obviously the larger the gap, the more of an opportunity you have for someone to be ejected in a space that is created between the harness and the seat pan,” Avery said.
Avery also said that Sampson should have not been allowed on the ride due to the fact that his weight was well over the ride’s maximum weight limit.
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An operating manual for the Orlando FreeFall states that the maximum passenger weight is just over 286 pounds. Sampson was 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighed 330 pounds, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“Based on the manufacturer’s manual weight limits, [Tyre] should have been prohibited from riding, and the attendant and/or operator had a responsibility to ensure that he was of the appropriate weight to be on the ride in the first place,” Avery said. “Considering he wasn’t, and they didn’t ‘t check, you know, he was subjected to a known and foreseeable hazard associated with this attraction and unfortunately lost his life as a result of it.”
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He also said there were “a series of failures” that led to the teenager falling off of the ride.
“But obviously, a series of failures occurred in order to arrive, in this instance, that were all preventable, given that certain factors were followed and one of the other final elements that should have been addressed is a secondary failsafe in the sense that a latching mechanism to the harness or a safety belt that would have been fixed to the occupant,” Avery said.
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Sampson’s father said in an interview with Orlando 35 that his son could tell something didn’t feel right.
“When the ride took off, that’s when he was feeling uncomfortable. He was like, ‘This thing is moving.’ … That’s when he started freaking out,” Yarnell Sampson told FOX 35 Orlando. “He was explaining to his friends next to him … ‘If I don’t make it down … please tell my mom and dad I love them.’ For him to say something like that, he must’ve felt something.”
In a statement, the SlingShot Group, which operates the Orlando FreeFall, said that it will cooperate with the investigation and expressed its deepest sympathy to Sampson’s family and friends.
“We are heartbroken with the incident that took the life of one of our guests. We extend our condolences and deepest sympathy to his family and friends. We are working with the Sheriff’s Office and ride officials on a full investigation. The Orlando FreeFall will be closed until further notice,” the statement reads.
Fox News’ Rebecca Rosenberg contributed to this report