Amusement park rides find so much of their thrills from creating an illusion of danger. A good roller coaster makes you feel like something scary might happen, but you also know that something scary is never supposed to happen. But when something goes wrong true tragedy can strike, and that has happened as last night a 14-year-old boy fell from an attraction at Florida’s Icon Park.
The incident took place on an attraction called Free Fall, a freestanding drop tower that at 430 feet tall, is reportedly the tallest of its type. It holds up to 30 passengers when at full capacity and falls straight down at up to 75 miles per hour. While the version at Icon Park may be the tallest of its type, there are dozens if not hundreds of similar attractions at amusement parks all over the world. While most operate without incident there have been falling deaths from Drop Tower rides in the past.
A lot of details are currently unknown at the moment, including the identity of the boy who fell. The 911 call came in shortly after 11 PM Thursday night. Today has video of the attraction from just before the fall, including what appears to be an image of the teenager coming out of his safety harness as the ride vehicle is mid-fall. The teenager was taken to a local hospital where he later died from the injuries sustained.
There appears to be conversation among the riders on the attraction before the ride goes up about the safety equipment, but John Stine of the Slingshot Group, which operates the attraction at Icon Park, confirms the teen was in the safety harness when the ride began.
Icon Park is located on International Drive in Orlando. It’s a long stretch not far from Walt Disney World, where many staying off property tend to find rooms. It’s become a tourist destination itself with resorts, smaller amusement parks, and dozens of restaurants catering to the Orlando tourist as well as locals.
The Free Fall has only been in operation since last December, but there are no reports of any problems with the attractions or the safety equipment since then. The attraction was opened alongside the Slingshot, which at 300 feet is the largest attraction of its type as well. Both rides are currently closed down while the accident is investigated.
Focus of the investigation will certainly be on the safety equipment. The main question will likely be whether there was a problem with the harness that prevented it from locking the rider in place, or whether the harness, for whatever reason, did not properly lock in the first place.
Accidents, especially fatal ones, on amusement park rides are rare, but they have certainly happened before. Last year a child died in an Iowa theme park when the raft of a water ride overturned. It’s absolutely heartbreaking when this sort of thing happens. An activity that is supposed to be full of fun becomes terrible. Our hearts go out to the family of the victim.