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Teen's fatal fall from Florida ride has local amusement park discussing safety protocols

Posted at 10:11 AM, Apr 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-04 18:42:17-04

CLINTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — It’s posted on every ride: Weight, height and other requirements necessary to get on an attraction at C.J. Barrymore’s in metro Detroit.

Managers say safety is paramount, but after a teen was ejected from an amusement park ride in Florida in March, they are going above and beyond to do more.

At just 14 years old, Tyre Sampson flew off an amusement park ride in Florida. His death is triggering conversations about safety and standards across the country.

“It’s horrible,” David Dalpizzo, the manager at C.J. Barrymore’s in Clinton Township said.

The local amusement park is offering eight thrill rides on its 25-acre property, including the Drop Tower.

“So, this ride is 110 feet tall. The ride in Orlando was 423, so Orlando’s ride is about four times the size as ours,” Dalpizzo said.

Dalpizzo says safety is paramount. Each ride has two annual inspections, one by the state and the other through a third party. And every day, an inspector on staff must make sure everything is running smoothly. Everyone is once again reminded of that job's importance.

But was the tragedy in Orlando a manufacturing error?

“It’s a combination,” Nathan MacDonald, an engineer who has been working on drop rides for nearly a decade, said.

He said based on preliminary reports, the failure was a combination of operator error and bad design. Sampson, who was 6',5" and over 300 pounds, did not meet the size requirements for the ride, so he should not have been permitted to go on.

“However, when it comes to design and the way a ride is put together, relying on operator training for things that can be avoided through design basically is considered poor engineering practice,” MacDonald said.

Michigan Carnival-Amusement Safety Act of 1966 by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd

He says there should have been a safety feature that prevented the ride from moving if a passenger wasn’t secured properly.

“Even if they met the height and the weight requirement, we still have to get them secure in the seat,” Dalpizzo said.

Dalpizzo says there are times when they have to turn people away for not fitting the attractions.

But that begs the question, why aren’t rides built to accommodate a wider range of sizes?

“It's more complicated to do that,” MacDonald said.

He says creating a one-seat-fits-all ride is complex and would more than likely require more operator support. As the size of the average American continues to expand, it’s something his industry is working on.

Both Dalpizzo and MacDonald say parents and riders can take matters into their own hands and look up requirements for rides before getting to a park. If you get on a ride and don’t feel secure, experts say get off.