ICON Park: Family of a teen who died after falling from an amusement park ride sues, saying many mistakes were made

Defendants in the lawsuit, filed Monday in state court, include ICON Park; SlingShot, which owns and operates the Orlando FreeFall; the ride’s manufacturer, Austria-based Funtime Handels; and the manufacturer of the seats and harnesses, Germany-based Gerstlauer Amusement Rides.

Teen who died at Florida amusement park was a football standout and a & # 39; gentle giant & # 39;  with a kind heart, loved ones say

Last week, ICON Park said it is “deeply troubled that the preliminary findings of the state’s investigation indicate a sensor on the Orlando FreeFall attraction, which is owned and operated by the SlingShot Group, had been mis-adjusted after the sensor was originally secured in place. “

“ICON Park is committed to providing a safe, fun experience for families. We will continue to support the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services with their ongoing investigation,” the statement read.

Orlando SlingShot attorney Trevor Arnold issued a written statement Monday saying the company “continues to fully cooperate with the State during its investigation, and we will continue to do so until it has officially concluded.”

“We reiterate that all protocols, procedures and safety measures provided by the manufacturer of the ride were followed,” the statement said.

“We look forward to working with the Florida legislature to implement change in the industry and we are also supportive of the concepts outlined by State Representative Geraldine Thompson to make changes to state law through the ‘Tire Sampson Bill’ to prevent a tragic accident like this from ever happening again. ”

Funtime Handels and Gerstlauer Amusement Rides did not immediately respond to CNN’s requests for comment.

A metal detector, but no posted weight limit

There were no clear weight limits nor scales at the ride site, even though the ride tilted about 30 degrees forward, the suit states.

Michael Haggard, the attorney representing Tire’s mother, Nekia Dodd, said he was appalled by that omission.

A 14-year-old fell to his death from the new drop tower ride at Florida & # 39 ;s ICON Park

“The manufacturer in the manual says right there and then that you can not be over 287 pounds. Yet they do not provide a scale. They do not tell the ride operator you need to have a scale, if weight is in question,” Haggard told CNN on Monday.

“Yet at this ride in Orlando, the FreeFall ride, they have a metal detector. So you go through a metal detector, which there’s no risk of that associated with the ride, except maybe the keys could fall out and hit somebody,” he said.

“It’s a fun ride. It’s a thrill ride. But it’s not supposed to kill you.”

A seat belt system would have helped, lawsuit says

“While most free fall rides of this type have both a shoulder harness and a seatbelt, this subject Free Fall ride only had an over-the-shoulder harness to ‘secure’ riders,” the lawsuit states.

To outfit the ride with the seat belt combination, “All of the seats combined would cost approximately $ 660,” according to the lawsuit. And that could have saved Tire’s life, Haggard said.

The Orlando FreeFall ride, shown here in March, has been closed since Tire Sampson & # 39 ;s death.

“What’s really sad about this is that had they put the seat belt in, it would have cost $ 22 (per seat). You would have paid for that in two to three rides,” Haggard said. “In one night, this would have been paid for and this would have never happened.”

The lawsuit states “a reasonable manufacturer, constructor, operator, distributor, designer, and supplier” would have installed a mechanism to stop operation of the ride if a rider’s restraint was not properly secured and also not allow the sensors to be manipulated or adjusted.

Haggard said a similar free-fall ride at Dollywood – which has temporarily closed in light of the Florida tragedy – does include a lower restraint. Even though that ride is also capable of leaning forward, Haggard said, the operators at Dollywood chose not to tilt the ride forward for safety reasons.

But Wes Ramey, the Dollywood public relations director, said the ride at Dollywood is not designed to tilt.

Others have complained about the same seat, attorney says

& # 39; He had a great future ahead of him. & # 39;  Friends and teammates honor Tire Sampson

The lawsuit blames several defendants for “allowing the ride, and particularly the seat into which Tire was placed, to stay in service despite performance issues.”

Haggard told CNN others have mentioned problems with the seat in which Tire was riding.

“We’ve had a number of witnesses come forward who were riding in Seat 1 prior to the incident who have complained that they felt like it was loose, that it was different than the other seats,” the attorney said.

“They can look across and see somebody else’s is tighter than them. There were a number of complaints beforehand. Nobody fell out, thank God, but there were definitely complaints from previous witnesses that will testify,” he said.

CNN has reached out to ICON Park for comment about this allegation, but did not immediately receive a response.

Orlando SlingShot responded but said it had no further comment beyond the statement from its attorney.

What the family wants

Why amusement park rides aren & # 39; t federally regulated

Tire’s parents, Yarnell Sampson and Dodd, are seeking damages such as the costs of medical care and funeral arrangements as well as compensation for the mental pain and suffering from the death of their son, the suit states.

The family has asked for a jury trial. But Dodd is also trying to help solve an ongoing problem in the amusement ride industry, Haggard said.

“One of the problems here is that there’s limited federal oversight. Every state has its own department of agriculture or a department that oversees amusement parks,” Haggard said. “She wants to make sure that this not only does not happen (again) in this facility, but that it never happens anywhere. That is her purpose.”

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