Tyre Sampson Act, named for teenager who fell from ride, signed by Gov. DeSantis

Free Fall Death
Starting in July, Florida will crack down on ride safety at smaller theme parks.

Months after a teenager fell from an Orlando ride to his death, Florida is aiming to increase safety of the state’s attractions.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Tyre Sampson Act (SB 902), which is named for a 14-year-old Missouri boy who fell 400 feet from the Orlando Free Fall at ICON Park. Tyre Sampson’s family reached a settlement last month with the Orlando theme park in a wrongful death lawsuit. The ride has been removed.

The new law aims to prevent a similar tragedy in the future by imposing sign requirements on height and weight capacities and requiring changes to state law regarding ride modifications.

Nekia Dodd, Sampson’s mother, said in a statement earlier this year the changes “will save another child’s life.”

The bill notably doesn’t apply to the state’s largest theme park operators, which conduct their own safety inspections.

But for smaller operators, this imposes the possibility of random state inspections.

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Geraldine Thompson, a Windermere Democrat, while Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis, an Orlando Democrat, carried the House version.

Thompson cheered unanimous passage of the bill earlier this year.

“We have communicated that we place value on human life and we want all individuals who choose to enjoy Florida’s amusement rides to know that they are safe,” she tweeted earlier this year. “Most importantly, we honored Tyre and his family with legislation that hopefully will prevent the tragic accident that took his life from happening to anyone else.”

The new law goes into effect on July 1.

A financial impact study figures the bill will bring a cost to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which will be responsible for enforcement. The Department intends to add 18 staff positions to handle the burden at a cost of $2.2 million in the coming fiscal year.

The regulation comes with the possible threat of rides being temporarily or permanently closed by the state if they do not meet muster with inspectors.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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