A 14-year-old boy died after falling from freefall ride at Orlando ICON Park

Posted | Contributed by bigboy

A 14-year-old boy has died after falling from a ride at ICON Park in Orlando, Florida, authorities said. In a statement, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said deputies responded to the Orlando Free Fall attraction at ICON Park just after 11 p.m. Thursday after receiving a 911 call. While the investigation into the death is in its early stages, "witnesses on scene reported that someone had fallen from the ride," the sheriff's office said.

Read more and see video report from NBC News.

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There's a screen grab doing the rounds showing a restraint that is extremely high. If that's genuine, then the ride should never have been dispatched.

As someone said in the other thread, the video is pretty awful and I would be surprised if it's still lingering out on social media. I didn't realize the detail until I ran across it. Looked like he slid under the restraint at the bottom of the drop. I also noticed that the bar appeared to be extremely high and the rider looked to be tall and big in the shoulders. It also sounds like this ride doesn't have the safety belt that is attached to the the bar and center of the seat that I believe is common on this type of ride. The workers seem to be relatively calm given the circumstances.

When I was in Orlando in December the ride was about a week away from opening and I mentioned to my wife at the time, it was weird to see a drop tower ride without seatbelts.

After the California's Great America accident in the late 90s most Intamin Free Falls recieved the seatbelts, so it seemed weird to me this ride didn't have them especially with the tilting seats.

It's sad to see in the video that likely could have prevented this. Also makes me wonder why different manufacturers aren't learning from previous incidents when designing rides.

Jeff's avatar

The house collar is essentially a lap bar when it's down. It locks your thighs into the seat, and if it's down enough to be locked and touching your legs, you're not getting out, especially with the ball buster sticking up at the front of the seat. A seat belt through the crotch would act as minimum assurance that it's down far enough, but wouldn't be necessary for restraint, assuming a double hydraulic mechanism that is extremely unlikely to double fail.

That's all conjecture on my part, but my point is that based on what I understand, a seat belt isn't necessary for restraint. Again it would only aid as a double check that it's down far enough.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

As I posted elsewhere, most coasters that have seat belts do not need them. They are there for a combination of (a) insurance reasons, (b) reassuring the timid, and (c) to ensure the restraint is closed far enough for redundancy to engage.

With respect to (c), look at any B&M Inverted Coaster – you can unbuckle your seat belt at any time mid-ride if you feel so inclined. If they were really necessary for safety, don't you think that they'd require an operator unlock in the station?

Well, in this case, I think a seat belt may have just been enough to save his life. It may have been really uncomfortable as he slid out and got caught up on the belt, but it may just have been enough to keep him in place those last few critical moments.

Regardless if needed or not in normal cases, it may have just been enough simply as a redundancy in unusual cases, such as this.

Jeff's avatar

I don't think you're following. The seat belt isn't the restraint, it's a mechanical measure of restraint closure. If there was a belt, it would have indicated the restraint was down enough to be locked and restrain the person.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Having unfortunately seen the video and seeing how high his restraint was before dispatch. I think if there was a belt, he probably wouldn't have made it on the ride.

Poorly designed seats, along with them being tilted while braking also may have contributed. I think they definitely have a case to go after the ride manufacturer.

Such a sad and preventable death.

eightdotthree's avatar

My heart goes out to his friends and family and especially those that were on the ride with him.

Just saw a photo. As an amusement park nerd it’s immediately obvious that he didn’t fit. Are the operators not trained to notice these things? Are they not empowered to say no? Seems entirely preventable.

I wonder if it's a case of training being very matter of fact. Sort of a "if the light turns green and the controls allow a dispatch, no need to question anything, it's fine" mentality.

eightdotthree's avatar

I have a hard time believing that a light turned green or that it even exists. It’s sitting on him like an 80s Arrow horse collar.

99er's avatar

According to an interview with the park, the ride will not dispatch if the harnesses are not locked. So what Brett said is likely the case when it comes to training. That said I have a hard time believing the position of the harness would still be considered "locked" after seeing the picture.


I was tricked into watching the video when some jacka** posted it to FB this morning with a “funny” click-bait title- no caution or content warning whatsoever. I was so shocked I doubted for a minute what really happened. It was ghastly.
This type of accident happens more often than it should, and whether the cause is ride-related or human error, the person’s size seems to come into play. I don’t know what the answer is. I’m so sad for everyone involved.

OhioStater's avatar

I also got the link sent to me via FB, but by a friend and not by some jack***....I even read the title and stupidly thought it was going to be some kind of joke or fake video. I had heard nothing about the story, and was still waking up via coffee moments before teaching. Horrifying.

14 years old.

Less than a year after the young girl in the mine-shaft drop-ride horror.

Last edited by OhioStater,

Promoter of fog.

Bakeman31092's avatar

The tilting seats are obviously a huge factor in this. I watched a video of the ride in operation, and the tilt is maintained all the way until the ride has come to a stop at the bottom, which means the deceleration forces are tending to push the rider against the restraint and right through the space between the lap portion of the harness and the seat. Say whatever you want about operations, but if the little indicator light turns green with the harness that far up, then that is a serious design flaw, full stop. I wouldn’t say that about a bucket seat that doesn’t tilt, since the forces in that case tend to push you deeper into the seat. But if the seat is relatively flat and it tilts forward (and there’s no seatbelt) then the harness has to come down far enough to close off that space.

Something that has always stuck with me from when I worked at Great Coasters: I was learning the ropes from one of my colleagues and he told me that GCI doesn’t design for negative Gs. Yes, we had well designed seats and lap bars with redundant ratchets and a backup seat belt, but at the end of the day you can sleep a little easier knowing that the restraint isn’t required to survive the ride. As much as it is certainly more frightening to be leaning forward 400+ feet in the air, there’s something to be said for keeping it simple.

What a nightmare. I feel awful for the victim and his friends and loved ones.

This is a horrific accident and my heart goes out to his family and friends.

I’ve watched the video and seen the screen shot of the restraint, it does look very high. I have had a number of rides where my shoulders have been higher up than ideal for the restraint - the effect is that as your shoulders are pushed down, you are also pushed further forward in your seat as your spine has to go somewhere. I once had a very unnerving ride on a different design of tower where the horse collar was pushed down as far as it could be (but not as far as other due to the Height of my shoulders) but I felt like I was just teetering on the edge of the seat as it shot up and down; on that occasion I was obviously safe but was grateful to get off. That particular machine didn’t have tilting seats or drop with the same force that the Orlando free fall does for which I am grateful. Unfortunately one size does not fit all and whilst this is only conjecture that this was the factor, when we ride these machines we put our trust in the manufacturers and the operators / crew to ensure our safety and knowing if the restraints are adequate for height / size; having seen the photos I can’t believe it was deemed safe; I guess hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Ultimately, once again a catalogue of errors has cost a young person their life. Whether it’s a design flaw, lack of awareness of the operators, or another factor will remain to be seen.

I am very surprised that the seat and restraint don’t buckle together. And that the ride got a green light to go in that position.

To go off on a tangent, Americans body habitus has changed significantly in the past 30 years. You can talk about personal control all you want, but at the end of the day if your restraint can’t fit a large enough portion of your park guests parks will stop buying it. The simple hard horse collar is not cutting it anymore in that regard, which why I believe you see companies going to u shaped drop down lap bars with or without soft, flexible OTSRs (newer Intamins, Premier, etc.).

Quite simply, larger people can still fit in those restraints by lifting their stomachs up and sliding the restraint between the stomach and their thighs, and the go/no go point is significantly low enough they have to do this to fit. I think incidents like this will push this change further, this was a 14 year old boy, the prime demographic for thrill rides you gotta make a restraint that fits them. American obesity is not going away, and we are the primary market for these rides.

2022 Trips: WDW, Sea World San Diego & Orlando, CP, KI, BGW, Bay Beach, Canobie Lake, Universal Orlando

kpjb's avatar

I haven't seen the video, and have no desire to.

Was this boy too large for the restraint to lower, or was he too small once it was lowered?

Just trying to understand exactly what happened.


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