Vigil held for St. Louis County teen who fell to his death at Florida amusement park

Published: Mar. 31, 2022 at 6:25 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Thursday, a community will the life of a rising middle school athlete who died at an Orlando, Florida amusement park.

Tyre Sampson, 14, of St. Louis County, died last week after falling off the FreeFall drop tower ride in Florida’s ICON Park

The ride stands 430-feet tall and is billed as the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower, according to the park’s website. The ride holds 30 passengers as it rises in the air, rotates around the tower and then tilts to face the ground before free falling at more than 75 mph, the website said. The ride has over-the-shoulder restraint harnesses, with two hand grips at the chest level, that riders pull down and then they are released automatically at the end of the ride. Reports said the harness on the seat was still locked in a locked position.

However, Sampson’s family is pursuing legal action.

“This young man, he was athletic and he was big. He had no way of knowing,” said Bob Hilliard, a Texas attorney who represents Tyre’s mother, Nekia Dodd, in an interview Saturday. “This is going to be an issue of a lack of supervision and lack of training. A straight-up negligence case.” The well-known civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is working with Hilliard and represents Tyre’s father, Yarnell Sampson, said the family is “shocked and heartbroken at the loss of their son.”

Yarnell Sampson spoke with News 4 following the news of his son’s death. Yarnell says Tyre was an 8th-grade student at City Montessori School in South City. Sampson, who lives in Venice with Tyre’s stepmom, says Tyre lived with his mother in Berkeley.

“He was a big teddy bear, a gentle giant. He was a good young man,” said Yarnell. “He had a bright future, honor roll student. ‘Yes sir, yes ma’am’ type of kid.”

Tyre planned to attend East St. Louis High School in the fall, but his father also says he was considering the possibility of going to Cardinal Ritter. Wherever he would end up choosing, Yarnell says there was no doubt in his mind Tyre would eventually pursue his dream of playing pro football with the hopes of one day giving back to his family.

“He was 6′5″, 325 at 14 years old, playing left tackle, so that’s a prime position. Plus, he had an NFL mentor, so he was definitely on the right path,” said Yarnell. “And I was going to put him in a blue-chip camp myself this summer.”

“Big Tick” was his nickname among family, friends, and teammates.