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$20 seat belt could've saved Tyre Sampson, ride expert says

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TAMPA (WFLA) – An amusement ride inventor believes Tyre Sampson’s death could have been prevented with the simple addition of a seat belt.

According to reporting by WESH, Sampson’s ride harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped.

Ride designer and safety expert Bill Kitchen, President of U.S. Thrill Rides, told WESH Sampson’s death could’ve been prevented with the additional safety feature.

“It costs about $20, and the straps will hold about six thousand pounds,” Kitchen said.

Kitchen has designed more than 200 rides, including the Unicoaster at Mall of America, which has a belt latched between the seat bottom and the shoulder harness, according to WESH.

Sampson’s weight is believed to have played a factor in the ride. According to the Orlando FreeFall’s manual the maximum weight for the ride was listed as less than 287 pounds. Sampson’s father said his son weighed more than 300 pounds.

“It’s still a machine. And operator errors can occur and machine errors can occur but this is overwhelmingly the way to prevent anyone from ever coming out of that seat,” Kitchen said. “And the opinion of everyone I talked to in the business is that the seat belts should be on that ride.”

The ride’s owner said the ride had several safety checks and that the equipment was functioning properly before the free-fall ride began operation.

Sampson’s family has retained attornies Ben Crump and Bob Hilliard to represent them.

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