A 14-year-old boy riding “the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower” in Orlando, Florida, died Thursday in a shocking fall from a horrifyingly-viewed attraction.
After the tragic event, loved ones remembered the boy – Tyre Sampson – as an aspiring athlete, a good student and a caring son. Two lawyers, including nationally recognized civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, announced they would represent the family.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that deputies received a 911 call and responded to ICON Park shortly after 11 p.m. where witnesses said someone had fallen from a free fall ride. Tyre was taken to the hospital where he died.
Several witnesses called 911 to tell what they saw: A woman told a dispatcher that Sampson’s face was down, he was unresponsive and that he appeared to have broken his arms and legs. Another person told the 911 dispatcher that the teen did not have a pulse.
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Orange County Sheriff John Mina said the investigation into the death is ongoing. But preliminary information indicates “this appears to be a terrible tragedy.” He said the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs is investigating the safety of the rides.
According to a witness account of a 911 dispatcher, the tire seemed to slip out of its seat as the ride approached the bottom of its descent. The video shows he went from his seat at a high speed as the ride slowed down from under him.
The ride will be closed indefinitely, said John Stine, a spokesman for the Slingshot Group of Companies, which owns and operates the ride. Stine said there have been no other safety issues since the ride opened.
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“Needless to say we are devastated,” Stein said. “Our hearts go out to this young man’s family, and we are cooperating with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and other local agency’s ongoing investigation, which I cannot comment on at this time.”
ICON Park is an entertainment complex in Orlando that includes amusement park rides as well as shopping, dining, an aquarium, the Madame Tussauds wax museum, and other attractions.
In 2021, a maintenance technician who was not properly attached to a safety device fell 225 feet in the 450-foot-long StarFlyer Swing Ride, a neighbor’s ride in the park.
Mina told a news conference Friday that Sampson was on his way from his home in Missouri to visit the family of a friend in Florida.
“We can’t imagine what they’re going through,” Mina said. “As a dad with boys who go on rides and who frequent amusement parks, you know, it’s just a sad situation.”
Security expert expressed concern over seatbelt
According to a January release from the park, the ride opened at ICON Park in the heart of Orlando’s entertainment district late last year. Thirty riders in that time can lift up, lean forward, and then drop about 400 feet at speeds in excess of 75 mph.
Ken Martin, a Virginia-based amusement park safety analyst who works with parks, fairs, government entities, insurance companies and lawyers, said the forward-slung ride G-Force riders experience underscores the importance of a properly functioning harness. Increases. ,
Videos and photos of the ride show no secondary safety belt securing the over-the-shoulder harness. Martin told USA Today that such a belt is generally a standard part of ride safety at similar attractions.
In a clip published by WESH 2 News, a man aboard the drop tower can be heard questioning its restrictions before taking off.
Martin said he had reviewed the video from the incident and that the additional safety belt could have been a life saver. He also said that the incident underscores the importance of properly checking the restraints of the riders.
“We’re going to get them to shore and get them back safely,” Martin said. “That is not life. You must not die for no reason.”
Tyre’s father, Yarnell Sampson, told Fox 13 that his son was traveling with his football team from St. Louis, Missouri to Orlando. He said the teen panicked and became uncomfortable as soon as the ride started.
“That’s when he started freaking out, and he was explaining to his friend next to him, ‘I don’t know man. If I don’t downvote it, please tell my mom and dad that I love them. I do.'” his father told the news station. “For him to say something like that, he must have felt something.”
Attorney Ben Crump, Bob Hilliard to represent the family
The teen’s family will be represented by civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Bob Hilliard, lawyers announced Saturday.
“The family is shocked and heartbroken by the loss of their son,” Crump, representing Tyre’s father, Yarnell Sampson, said in a statement. “A fun theme park trip with his football team should not end in tragedy,” Crump said in a statement. said in a statement.
Attorney Bob Hilliard, representing Tyre’s mother Necia Dodd, said in a statement that families should be able to rely on theme parks to keep their children safe.
“Every parent who watches this horrifying video can’t help but think the same thing, ‘That could have been my baby,'” he said.
The lawyers said they urge any witness to contact them.
Loved ones remember Tire with a noble heart, honor student
Crump said in a statement on Saturday that Tyre was an 8th grade star football player and A student.
“This young man was the kind of son that every parent expects – an honor roll student, an aspiring athlete and a kind person who cares about others,” the statement said.
His father told Nation World News that Tyre was an honor role student who dreamed of becoming a football player. He described the teen as a “kind child” and “a big teddy bear, a gentle giant”.
“I want to know what really happened… why the bright future of a 14-year-old was taken away from us,” he told Nation World News.
Tyre’s former football coach Arnaud Jones told local news station KSDK that the teen was “mild-mannered, mild-spoken”.
“He would respect and take what I’m giving him, and I knew he had a bright future because he was just a great kid,” Jones said.
In an interview with NBC News, Tyre’s uncle Carl Sampson said that Tyre was respectable and intelligent.
“It’s hard to believe,” he said. “He was just 14. It was so sad that this happened. He was so young.”