Tyre Sampson’s mother: Son’s death on Florida ride could’ve been prevented

Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 10:15 AM CDT
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP/KMOV) — The mother of a 14-year-old St. Louis County boy who died after falling off a 430-foot drop-tower ride at an amusement park in Florida says her son’s death could have been prevented.

The attorneys for Tyre Sampson’s parents, Nekia Dodd and Yarnell Sampson, filed a lawsuit in Orlando on Monday against multiple entities, which include the ride’s owner, manufacturer and landlord. The lawsuit claims these groups were negligent and failed to provide a safe amusement ride.

“I’m still in shock. This is a nightmare, to be honest. His last words to me were ‘I’ll see you Saturday or Sunday’,” said Dodd about her last months with her son during a press conference at Live! by Lowes in St. Louis. “That Sunday I was waiting for my son to come home.”

She got the call from a family member who was with Sampson at ICON Park the day he died.

“It’s heart wrenching. I couldn’t do anything for my son but cry over the phone. I couldn’t touch him, I couldn’t hold him. I couldn’t hug him. I couldn’t do anything,” said Dodd. “I don’t wish that on any parent, any parent.”

The lawsuit alleges Sampson was not warned about the risk of riding the free fall ride or prevented from getting on the ride despite being more than 70 pounds over the weight limit listed in the manufacturer’s manual.

“All these acts of negligence fall on all three of these parties. A jury will decide what percentage of fault each of these defendants get.” Haggard said.

Haggard spoke with News 4 about the lawsuit in a one on one interview on Monday. He says the Orlando Free Fall ride only had one type of restraint on each seat, despite similar free fall rides having a harness restraint and a seatbelt. He says adding seatbelts to the ride’s 30 seats would have cost $660, and this entire tragedy could have been avoided.

He held up a seatbelt during the press conference, which he said would cost around $22 dollars.

“If [the seatbelt] had been employed as a secondary restraint, Tyre Sampson would have not fallen to his death,” said Haggard. “Nekia would be working with our honor roll student right now... finishing 8th grade, picking out his outfit for the 8th-grade prom and getting ready to start football at East Side High School.”

“He was on his way. He was going to be known, but not like this. He was going to be in the football seed, the NFL team,” said Dodd.

Attorney Benjamin Crump, who is one of two legal counsel representing Sampson’s father in the lawsuit, said the defendants in the case “showed negligence in a multitude of ways.”

“We wanted it to be on the record that the reason Tyre Sampson, this 14-year-old child, was killed is because these corporations put profit over safety,” said Crump during a separate press conference held today in Orlando with Yarnell Sampson.

On Monday, an attorney for the ride’s operator, Orlando Slingshot, shared a statement with News 4 saying “all protocols, procedures and safety measures provided by the manufacturer of the ride were followed,” and the company was cooperating with the State’s investigation into the incident.

A Florida Department of Agriculture report, conducted by outside engineers, revealed that sensors on the ride were adjusted manually in order significantly widen the opening of the restraints on two of the ride’s seats, which meant Sampson was not properly secured before he fell off the ride.

“I don’t want this to happen to another family, not just a child but another family period,” said Dodd.

Both Dodd and Yarnell Sampson are calling on better safety measures for rides like this moving forward.

“If its, again, going up a certain amount of feet in the air, weight restrictions more workers better safety protocols. That’s it,” said Dodd.

“It’s senseless that a child gotta lose their life trying to have fun,” said Sampson.