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14-year-old dies in fall from 'world's tallest free-standing drop tower' in Florida as witnesses watch in horror




A 14-year-old boy who was riding “the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower” in Orlando, Florida, died in a shocking fall from the attraction as witnesses watched in horror on Thursday.

Deputies received a 911 call and responded to ICON Park shortly after 11 p.m. where witnesses said someone had fallen from the Free Fall ride, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. Tyre Sampson was transported to a hospital where he died from his injuries.

Several witnesses called 911 to report what they saw: A woman told a dispatcher that Sampson was face down, wasn’t responsive and appeared to have broken his arms and legs. Another man told a 911 dispatcher that the teen had no pulse.

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The investigation into the death is ongoing, Orange County Sheriff John Mina said. But preliminary information indicates “it appears to be a terrible tragedy.” He said the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs is investigating the safety of the ride.

The Orlando FreeFall ride is shown at ICON Park in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday, March 24, 2022.  A 14-year-old boy fell to his death from a ride at an amusement park in Orlando, sheriff's officials said. Sheriff's officials and emergency crews responded to a call late Thursday at Icon Park, which is located in the city's tourist district along International Drive. The boy fell from the Orlando Free Fall ride, which opened late last year.

The ride opened in ICON Park in center of Orlando’s Entertainment District late last year, according to a January release from the park. Thirty riders at the time can rise to the top, tilt forward and then free fall nearly 400 feet at speeds reaching over 75 mph.

The ride tilting forward increases the importance of a properly functioning harness due to the G-forces riders experience at the bottom, said Ken Martin, a Virginia-based amusement park safety analyst who works with parks, fairs, government entities, insurance companies and attorneys.

Sampson seemed to slip out of his seat when the ride braked as it approached the bottom of its descent, according to a witness account to a 911 dispatcher. Video suggests that he was propelled from his seat at high speeds as the ride slowed from its descent.

Videos and photos of the ride show no secondary safety belt that would secure the over-the-shoulder harness. Martin told USA TODAY that such a belt is a generally a standard part of ride safety in similar attractions.

Martin said he had reviewed video from the incident and that the added safety belt could have been life-saving. He also said the incident underscores the importance of ride operators properly checking restraints.

“We’re supposed to take them to the edge and bring them back safely,” Martin said. “That’s not life. You’re not supposed to die for no reason.”

The park is scheduled to open Friday, officials said. But the ride will be closed indefinitely, said John Stine, spokesperson for the Slingshot Group of Companies, which owns and operates the ride. Stine said there have been no other safety issues with the ride since it opened.

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“Needless to say we are devastated,” Stine said. “Our hearts go out this young man’s family, and we are cooperating with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and other local agency’s ongoing investigations which I cannot comment on any further at this time.”

ICON park is an entertainment complex in Orlando that includes amusement park rides as well shopping, dining, an aquarium, a Madame Tussauds wax museum and other attractions.

In 2021, a maintenance technician who was not properly hooked up to a safety device plunged 225 feet to his death at a neighboring ride at the park, the 450-foot-tall  StarFlyer swing ride.

Sampson was visiting a friend’s family in Florida from his home in Missouri, Mina said at a press conference Friday.

“We can’t imagine what they’re going through,” Mina said. “As a father with boys who go on rides and who frequent amusement parks a lot, you know, it’s just a tragic situation.”

Contact Breaking News Reporter N’dea Yancey-Bragg at or follow her on Twitter @NdeaYanceyBragg. Contributing: Mike Davis and Alex N. Gecan, Asbury Park Press; The Associated Press



Razzies royally torch 'Diana' musical and 'Space Jam 2,' show love to Oscar favorite Will Smith




In its proclamation of the worst films of 2021, the Razzies lambasted a critically reviled Princess Diana musical and LeBron James’ “Space Jam” sequel, but spread love instead of hate for Will Smith.

The Golden Raspberry Awards, annually announced the day before the Academy Awards, bestowed five dishonors on Netflix’s “Diana: The Musical,” a filmed production of the recent Broadway show that closed after 33 performances. “Diana” beat out “Infinite,” “Karen,” “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and “The Woman in the Window” for worst picture, plus picked up worst screenplay and worst actress for star Jeanna de Waal.

“New Legacy,” the live-action/animated hybrid basketball comedy featuring James hooping it up with Bugs Bunny and Co., earned three Razzie awards. James was named worst actor and also was saddled with worst screen couple – which went to James and “Any Warner Cartoon Character (or WarnerMedia Product) He Dribbles On” –  while the movie snagged worst sequel.

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“House of Gucci” star Jared Leto lost his Screen Actors Guild race for best supporting actor but nabbed the Razzie for worst. And Bruce Willis does so many VOD movies now that he received his own special category (worst performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 movie) that, to no one’s surprise, he won – for “Cosmic Sin.”

Smith, who’s expected to win the best actor Oscar Sunday for “King Richard,” received this year’s Razzie Redeemer Award for previous Razzie honorees who’ve come back with quality efforts. Recent winners include Ben Affleck, Sylvester Stallone, Melissa McCarthy and Eddie Murphy.

The full list of this year’s Razzie “winners”:

Worst picture: “Diana: The Musical”

Worst actor: LeBron James, “Space Jam: A New Legacy”

Worst actress: Jeanna de Waal, “Diana: The Musical”

Worst supporting actress: Judy Kaye, “Diana: The Musical”

Worst supporting actor: Jared Leto, “House of Gucci”

Worst performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 movie: Bruce Willis, “Cosmic Sin”

Worst screen couple: LeBron James and Any Warner Cartoon Character

(or WarnerMedia Product) He Dribbles On, “Space Jam: A New Legacy”

Worst remake, rip-off or sequel: “Space Jam: A New Legacy”

Worst director: Christopher Ashley, “Diana: The Musical”

Worst screenplay: “Diana: The Musical”


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As more marijuana dispensaries get targeted by robbers, SAFE Banking Act lingers in Congress




Weed dispensaries targeted by robbers: Will SAFE Banking Act help?

A bill that could allow electronic transactions at weed dispensaries nationwide is again make its way through Congress but the SAFE Banking Act might not be the cure-all that supporters envision.

In over a decade of operating cannabis shops in Washington, Shea Hynes never once worried about his stores getting robbed at gun point – until recently: In a span of three weeks, his stores were robbed three different times at gun point.

Reports of armed robberies at cannabis dispensaries like Hynes’ have nearly doubled in the first quarter of this year compared with all of last year, according to data maintained by the Craft Cannabis Coalition. The group, which represents more than 50 stores in Washington, has recorded more than 65 armed robberies so far this year, compared with 35 in 2021 and 29 in 2020. 

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Takeaways from Friday's Sweet 16: North Carolina looks like national title contender




CHICAGO — In a ridiculous coincidence, the Saint Peter’s Peacocks wrote NCAA Tournament history on National Peacock Day with a thrilling upset of Purdue. 

The mid-major became the first-ever No. 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight, outdoing previous No. 15 seeds Oral Roberts (2021) and Florida Gulf Coast (2013). Exactly 0.8% of people picked the Peacocks to get this far, with the school from Jersey City, New Jersey, defying all odds. Is Saint Peter’s the best Cinderella of all time?

Meanwhile, the ACC is sitting pretty with three teams – Duke and now North Carolina and Miami (Fla.) – in the Elite Eight on the same day the Big Ten saw its last team go down.  

A look at three key takeaways from Friday:

Saint Peter’s writes NCAA history

Coach Shaheen Holloway has this team playing inspired basketball, and now the Peacocks (22-11) are just one win from the Final Four. The best Cinderellas of the last two decades to reach Final Fours – George Mason in 2006, VCU in 2011, Loyola-Chicago (2018) all were double-digit seeded mid-majors. But none was as highly seeded as this Saint Peter’s team that’s now beaten No. 2 seed Kentucky, No. 7 Murray State and No. 3 Purdue. 

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While other bracket-busting NCAA Tournament darlings of yesteryear have had flair (FGCU’s “Dunk City”) or a lovable fan (Loyola’s Sister Jean), this team from the MAAC is doing it with defense, namely with nine steals. In spite of being undersized against the Boilermakers, the Peacocks used aggressiveness and hustle to outduel their seemingly superior opponent behind 6-8 freshman Clarence Rubert and 6-7 junior Hassan Drame. Daryl Banks III (14 points) is the go-to scorer for Saint Peter’s, but Mr. Clutch has been guard Doug Edert (10 points) off the bench. One stat to note: a 19-for-21 clip from the free-throw line. What’s been most impressive is the Peacocks’ ability to stay hungry and poised under pressure, winning close games in all three NCAA Tournament matchups. 

Blue-bloods show title potential

Duke and Villanova advanced on Thursday, and fellow blue-bloods Kansas and North Carolina will now join them in the Elite Eight. And yes, if both the Blue Devils and Tar Heels win Sunday, we could see them meet in the Final Four. 

Ever since North Carolina embarrassed Duke in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Heels have been red-hot – knocking out No. 1 Baylor in the previous game in overtime. That continued against a UCLA team that reached the Final Four last year and seemed destined to get back. Caleb Love was brilliant again, finishing with 30 points off six three-pointers. Armando Bacot’s tip-in with 22 seconds left sealed the win in another impressive outing for coach Hubert Davis’ resilient team. 

The last remaining No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament, Kansas stayed alive, escaping Providence by five points. It’s coach Bill Self’s ninth trip to the Elite Eight with Kansas and 11th of his career, as the Jayhawks (31-6) are one win from the Final Four. They’ve now won eight in a row and are looking like a title contender after entering the NCAA Tourney having won the Big 12 tournament. 

The secret weapon for Kansas has been guard Remy Martin. For the third consecutive tournament game, Kansas got a jolt off the bench from the fiery Martin (23 points), the Arizona State transfer who has erupted in these NCAAs after playing a reserve role throughout 2021-22.

ACC > Big Ten 

Despite garnering nine NCAA Tournament bids on Selection Sunday – the most of any conference – the Big Ten is out following Purdue’s stunning exit vs. Saint Peter’s. The league tanked in the first two rounds, with No. 5 Iowa – the conference tourney champ – getting upset by Richmond in the first round. No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 4 Illinois, No. 7 Michigan State and No. 7 Ohio State all lost in the second round. And now, with Michigan’s loss to Villanova, the overall underachievement is on full display. That’s a 9-9 finish in the tournament.

No Big Ten team has cut down the nets since 2000 (the Spartans), and it’s a depressing outlook for the league that posted the second-best NET score in 2021-22 and showcased several teams with Final Four potential. 

The ACC, which finished with the sixth-worst NET score as a league, has Duke, North Carolina and Miami all in the Elite Eight. That’s after the Tar Heels, Hurricanes and Notre Dame were all bubble teams in early March. The NCAA Tournament is about matchups and pathways. No matter how well the Big Ten did in the regular season, much like the Pac-12’s surprising finish last year, the ACC is well-positioned with three teams still alive and two of them title contenders. 

Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson


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