The family of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson has filed a wrongful death lawsuit following the teen’s tragic death after falling from an amusement park ride in Orlando last month.
According to Fox News, Nekia Dodd and Yarnell Sampson, the young boy’s parents, filed the lawsuit against ICON Park and the ride’s owner and manufacturer on Monday in Orange County, Florida.
Sampson fell to his death while riding the Free Fall Ride at ICON Park on March 24, News Onyx reported. He traveled from St. Louis, Missouri, to the sunshine state with his football team during spring break. However, his family did not imagine they would lose their beloved son while on vacation.
Civil Rights attorney Ben Crump held a press conference on Tuesday, explaining that he filed the lawsuit because the defendants “put profit over safety,” resulting in the teen’s death.
“If you’re going to advertise for children to come to your amusement park, then you have an obligation to protect children. I mean, it’s not a complicated dynamic,” Crump said in a recording obtained by FOX Orlando.
All parties involved “cut corners to save pennies, and it cost people their lives,” the attorney added.
Crump explained that the video of Sampson falling from the amusement park ride had become one of the most “horrific videos ever captured.” Yarnell recalled not learning of his son’s untimely death until he saw a video of the incident on social media. Attending his son’s funeral was the first time Yarnell had seen him since leaving home a week before his death.
“What I’m feeling right now is sickening. There are days when I can’t get up out [of] bed, make myself eat, make myself drink. Imagine you lose a…14-year-old child that was a straight-A student,” Sampson said.
Michael Haggard, who represents Dodd, shared details with CB4 Miami regarding the lawsuit during a zoom call in Missouri.
“No one thinks they’re going to get this awful call in the first place, that you’ve lost a child,” Haggard said. “But then to describe how this happened: falling more than 100 feet from a ride and dying. How does this happen with all the safety measures we all think are in place when we go on these rides?”
The Free Fall ride is the tallest free-standing drop-tower ride in the world at 430-feet.
“Once the ride reaches the top, it tilts forward 30 degrees, and free falls several hundred feet at speeds of more than 75 mph. Upon coming to a stop, the riders experience a g-force of around 4. To put this into perspective, the g-force experienced by astronauts during shuttle take-off is 3,” the lawsuit stated.
Dodd and Yarnell have accused the park, ride manufacturer, and owner of negligence, citing that no height or weight restrictions were posted for safety precautions. The suit also stated that the ride did not have any seatbelts, only an over-the-shoulder harness.
Sampson was 6’2″ and weighed more than 300 pounds.
“At any point in time had they done something, like buy a $22 seatbelt, you would have paid for that in 30 seats after the second ride on the first night,” Haggard said. “That’s how simple it could have been.”
Last week, an initial report from Quest Engineering & Failure Analysis concluded that ride operators for the Orlando-based Free Fall ride adjusted safety measures to the 14-year-old seat before his death. The modified changes caused some harnesses on the ride to open to “almost double” the normal range, said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
“These misadjustments allowed the safety lights to illuminate and properly satisfy the ride’s electronic safety mechanisms that allowed the ride to operate, even though Mr. Sampson was not properly secured in the seat,” Fried said.
The grieving mother said she would like to see ICON park implement new safety measures for ride participants and completely shut down the Free Fall attraction.
Dodd said her son was on his way to becoming an athletic superstar during the press conference, but he wasn’t supposed to be a household name involving his death.
“He was a go-getter, and for him not to be here is just devastating. He was on his way. He was going to be known, but not like this,” Dodd said during a Tuesday press conference. “He was going to be on the football scene, in the field…not through…this type of way, no.”
Haggard said Sampson’s death could have been avoided with a “$22” safety belt, even though the ride cost thousands of dollars.
“There were 30 seats on that ride. It would cost $660 to save the life of a 14-year-old,” Haggard explained.
Trevor Arnold, the attorney representing SlingShot Group, said the operators followed all of the “protocols, procedures and safety measures.”
“Today’s report suggests a full review of the ride’s design, safety, operation, restraint mechanisms and history – which of course, we welcome,” Arnold said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Florida legislature to implement change in the industry, as the safety of our patrons is always our top priority.”