The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services released a framework for proposed ride safety legislation following an incident in March where a teenager died after falling off an amusement park ride.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried said during a news conference on Wednesday that ride safety is “not a partisan issue” while releasing the framework.
The framework for ride safety legislation includes the following:
- Increased signage posting requirements from manufacturer to include amusement park ride requirements, warnings, and/or exclusions.
- Add authority for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to adopt rules for employee training to implement a “minimum standard” for training documentation, ride operator training, and retraining.
- Increase the reporting requirements for maintenance documentation as well as any changes made to the safety systems and restraints.
- Authorize the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to require permanent rides to get a 3rd party review and certification performed by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory.
- A new requirement stating that safety sensors and other limiting devices cannot be capable of adjustments that “exceed the maximum tolerance from the original manufacturer’s settings.” It would also require the ride operator to share data from the department on “all tolerances, settings, and specifications related to patron restraints and safety systems.”
- Increase the required accident reporting standards for amusement park rides. Currently, ride owners are only required to report incidents where an individual receives injures that require them to be taken to a hospital. The proposed change would modify the standard to include “any patron that requires emergency services regardless of what type of facility they visit for emergency treatment.”
- Add new job positions to the department which would perform unannounced inspections of the ride to ensure proper regulations are being followed, in addition to checking if ride conditions are safe.
Florida House of Representatives member Geraldine Thompson said at the news conference that she would like to see signage outside of rides that include requirements pertaining to weight.
During the conference, Fried said the legislation will exempt Walt Disney World and Universal Studios.
Tyre Sampson, 14, died after falling off of the Orlando FreeFall ride at ICON Park in Orlando, Florida, on March 24.
A ride operator filed an accident report, noting that the seat harness of the Orlando FreeFall was in a locked position after the 14-year-old fell out and died.
“FreeFall was coming to [sic] down the tower. When the magnets engaged, the patron came out of the seat,” the employee wrote. “Harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped.”
During the news conference, officials expressed that they want the legislation to be named after Sampson.
A Quest Engineering report released by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in April states that a “proximity sensor” for the harness being used by Sampson was “manually loosened,” meaning Sampson wasn’t properly secured in his seat.
Nikki Fried, Florida commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, said during a news conference after the report was released that “maladjustments” were made to the seat’s proximity sensor that allowed a safety light to illuminate, allowing Sampson to ride even though he was not “properly secured in the seat.”
“These maladjustments allowed the safety lights to illuminate – improperly satisfying the ride’s electronic safety mechanisms — that allowed the ride to operate even though Mr. Sampson was not properly secured in the seat,” Fried said. “The report confirms that manual adjustments had been made to the sensor for the seat in question that allowed the harness’ restraint opening to be almost double that of the normal restraints opening range.”
The ride has been closed since the incident on March 24, and depending on the outcome of the department’s investigation, it could be closed for good, Fried said during a previous news conference.
Lawyers for Sampson’s family have filed lawsuits against the Slingshot Group of Companies, which operates the Orlando FreeFall, as well as ICON Park, where the ride is located. The lawsuits also target the ride manufacturers.
ICON Park filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against it on June 27, with lawyers arguing in a court filing that “Plaintiffs have failed to plead any ultimate facts that would put the Icon Defendants on notice of exactly whose conduct or for what conduct they are seeking to hold the Icon Defendants ‘vicariously liable.'”
Lawyers for Sampson’s family are requesting a jury trial.