A 14-year-old boy has died after a horrifying fall from a ride that was billed as "the world's tallest free-standing drop tower" when it opened in Orlando in December. Witnesses say they saw the teen fall from the 430-foot Orlando FreeFall ride at ICON Park Thursday night, Fox 35 reports. "At first we thought it was a piece of the ride or whatever until we got a little closer and it was a person laying on the ground," says witness Montrey Williams. "Everyone was just panicking and screaming." The attraction has restraints that pull over the rider but no seat belt. It's still unclear how the teen fell out, or how far he fell.
The sheriff's office says the teen was taken to a hospital, where he died from his injuries. The ride, operated by the Slingshot Group, has been closed indefinitely. "We are absolutely saddened and devastated by what happened, and our hearts go out [to] this young man's family," Slingshot Group sales director John Stine tells the AP. "We are cooperating with all other investigations at this time to get to the bottom of what happened," Stine says. He says the ride is operated with "all the safety precautions in mind," and the boy was wearing a safety harness, NBC reports.
Stine says there were no previous reports of issues with the ride. When it first opened, Ritchie Armstrong, CEO of Slingshot Group, told the Orlando Sentinel that the ride takes up to 30 riders to the top of the tower before it rotates and descends. "It falls down free, detached from the tower, reaching speeds of up to 75 miles per hour before this beautiful magnetic braking system gives them a nice, smooth, slow stop," he said. The sheriff's office says the investigation is still in the very early stages. (Read more accidental death stories.)