Teen Falls 400ft From Drop Tower Ride to His Death at Orlando's ICON Park

A teenager died in Florida after falling from the drop tower attraction at Orlando's ICON Park, according to officials with the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Police, firefighters and paramedics rushed to the popular tourist attraction after receiving a 911 call reporting an incident at the site on Thursday night.

Officials found that a 14-year-old had fallen from the Free Fall ride, a 430-feet drop tower, according to a report by FOX35, which cited several witnesses.

The boy, who hasn't yet been identified, was brought to a hospital, but died of his injuries, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said. It has opened an investigation into the death.

The ICON Park's Free Fall ride, described by the park as a world-record setting attraction, opened in late December 2021 and claims to be the world's tallest freestanding drop tower.

Riders board a vehicle that brings them to the top of the tower, tilts 30 degrees to face the ground briefly and then drops down, reaching a speed of over 75 mph. The ride brakes about 45 feet above the ground.

A press release from 2021 from the Orlando ICON Park said the drop tower boasts "one of the fastest, smoothest ride systems to date" and "promises to bring high-speed exhilaration that is truly the 'top' of the line."

Free Fall can accommodate 30 riders at full capacity. It isn't yet known how many people were on the ride on Thursday when the boy fell, or how the events unfolded.

Orlando Free Fall, inaugurated at the same time as another record-breaking attraction, the Orlando Slingshot, is owned and operated by the Slingshot Group of Companies. The company has operated rides in Florida - including Orlando, Kissimmee, Daytona Beach and Panama City Beach - since 2000.

John Stein, a spokesperson for the Free Fall ride, told Channel9 that the Free Fall ride will be closed indefinitely.

"Our hearts go out to the family of this young man," Stein told Channel9 reporters. "Our hearts are broken today."

The Orlando ICON Park didn't immediately reply to a request for comment by Newsweek.

Deadly incidents at amusement parks are rare, but they do happen.

Details about the safety of rides aren't publicly available, but the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) reassured the public in 2018 that the odds of being seriously injured on a fixed-site ride at an amusement park in the U.S. is one in 17 million rides, as reported in a study on the global incidence of theme park and amusement ride accidents from the same year published on Science Direct.

In 2021 alone, the U.S. saw several incidents in amusement parks across the country.

In June 2021, a 47-year-old woman from Ohio died in Indiana from internal bleeding after being injured while riding "The Voyage," a wooden roller coaster at the Holiday World & Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus. Her death was ruled as accidental, while it was specified that the ride had been working properly.

In the same month, a Tennessee visually impaired teenage boy was seriously injured after getting caught under the Branson Coaster ride in Missouri while he was getting off the ride's vehicle. The ride was temporarily closed and then officials ruled for it to reopen, despite a backlash from the public.

Fatal Accidents

In July 2021, an 11-year-old boy died and four people were hospitalized after a raft on the Raging River ride at Adventureland in Altoona, Iowa, overturned. Another person had died on the same ride in 2016, according to the Associated Press.

In September 2021, a six-year-old girl died after falling from a ride at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Colorado. After an investigation, officials found that the child had never strapped on the safety belt that should have restrained her to the seat. The Haunted Mine Drop where the incident took place has been closed since, and doesn't appear among the park's attractions.

Two years ago, an employee died at the same Orlando ICON Park where the 14-year-old boy died on Thursday evening.

On 14 September 2020, 21-year-old Jacob Kaminsky died after falling 50 to 60 feet down from the Orlando StarFlyer - a 450-feet swing attraction in the park - while conducting a daily safety check.

A federal investigation ruled that Kaminsky wasn't hooked up properly to the ride's safety device and the park shouldn't be punished for the incident, as it didn't violate any safety regulations.