Many of us remember the tragic story of Tyre Sampson, who fell several hundred feet to his death while riding the Orlando FreeFall attraction at ICON Park on March 24, 2022. The ride was touted as the world’s tallest drop tower attraction at 430 feet but has been out of commission since the tragic death.
Tyre Sampson, a 14-year-old, was at the amusement park with friends on that fateful day – his parents weren’t present. While boarding the ride, Sampson’s seat had to be manually adjusted to accommodate his size. At some point on the way down, Sampson slipped out of his harness and fell to his death.
A wrongful death lawsuit was filed by his parents – Nekia Dodd and Yarnell Sampson – and named more than a dozen defendants, including ICON Park, the SlingShot Group (owner of FreeFall), Fun Time Thrill Rides (manufacturer of FreeFall), and Gerstlauer Amusement Rides (manufacturer of harness and seat).
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As part of an agreement, the owners of FreeFall agreed to remove the ride and set a goal to have it demolished by the one-year anniversary of his death. That demolition began last week and continued this week with Nekia Dodd in attendance – it was the first time she had visited the park since her son’s death.
“My son took his last breath on this ride, so it’s heartbreaking, it’s devastating, it’s a feeling I hope no other parent will ever have to go through after this ride comes down. When he passed, I wasn’t there for him,” she said at a news conference – adding that she wants no remains of the attraction left behind.
Not only that, but Dodd and her legal team – which includes Michael Haggard and Kimberly Wald of The Haggard Law Firm – hope to enact change that ensures the safety of future riders. Aside from improved employee training, they want to shut down unsafe rides and introduce seat belts whenever necessary.
Yarnell Sampson spoke about the demolition last week when crews were seen removing bolts and fencing. “I think they’re finally putting their money where your mouth is. This is just a step towards the right direction, and I’m glad they finally realized they made a mistake, and they’re trying to fix it,” he said.
Tyre Sampson Remembered as a Good Student Who Loves Sports
Tyre Sampson was just 14 years old when he fell to his death. He had so much life ahead of him and is remembered as a 4.0 honor student who loved to play sports. Back in August, just a few months after Tyre died, his father – among others – gathered at the site to release balloons in his memory.
At the time, Yarnell Sampson was a little bothered that there wasn’t a memorial for his son at the site of his death – not even a picture to remember him by. Most recently, Sampson said he hopes the owner of the FreeFall amusement attraction sticks to their word in creating a college scholarship in Tyre’s name.
“Let’s talk about making the difference for a parent who may have never thought about sending their kid to college, and then they come back and buy their mama house. They can be better leaders in their community. We may have another black president other brown president come out the situation,” he said.
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While demolition continues and settlements are reached, nothing is going to bring back Tyre Sampson as a family is forced to learn to live without their son. All they can do is hope that the dozens of other free-fall rides across the country take the necessary steps to prevent something similar from happening again.
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