Dollywood free-fall ride closes out of ‘abundance of caution’ after deadly accident at Orlando theme park

Dollywood closed their Drop Line attraction because the drop tower ride was developed by the same manufacturer as the Orlando ride

Johanna Chisholm
Monday 28 March 2022 13:16 BST
Focus on safety after teen dies falling from ride at Orlando's ICON Park

Just days after a 14-year-old boy fell to his death while riding a drop-tower attraction in Orlando, Dollywood announced it would temporarily close its own similar ride that was made by the same manufacturer as the Florida ride.

In a statement from the Tennessee-based theme park, jointly owned by country singer Dolly Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment, a spokesman said “we were deeply saddened to hear of the heartbreaking accident at ICON Park in Orlando, Fla. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this unimaginably difficult time".

“Although Dollywood does not have the specific ride involved in this tragic incident, the safety of our guests is our top priority. Out of an abundance of caution, and until further details about the accident at ICON Park are known, we have temporarily closed Drop Line, our drop tower ride that was developed by the same manufacturer," Wes Ramey, public relations director for the country singer’s theme park, said in a statement.

Tyre Sampson, 14, from St Louis, died on Thursday night visiting ICON Park in Orlando, Florida. The teen reportedly fell from the restraints in the 430 ft-drop tower attraction, and was rushed to hospital where he was later declared dead.

The teen’s father, Yarnell Sampson, spoke to Fox 35 News days after the tragedy and revealed that his young son had boarded the ride with two friends, but began to feel uneasy as it began to climb to its highest point.

“When the ride took off, that’s when he was feeling uncomfortable,” he told the local news affiliate, adding that his son had asked his friends, while freaking out, to tell his parents one thing: “I don’t know man, if I don’t make it down, please tell mom and daddy I loved them.”

The Orange County Sheriff investigating the incident maintains, so far, that based on their preliminary findings it is being considered a “terrible tragedy” as everything “seemed to be okay and normal” ahead of the ride.

An official with the company that operates the ride told CNN affiliate Spectrum News 13 the boy was secured in his seat.

The teen’s father, however, contends that his 6ft 5in son shouldn’t have been allowed on the ride in the first place.

“This one particular ride said ‘we can take you, come on, get on’. No one else allowed him to get on the ride, so I’m wondering what happened between now and then that made them say ‘come on, get on this ride,” he told Fox 35.

By contrast, Dollywood’s Drop Line is a 20-story free-fall, according to the website of the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, park.

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