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A preliminary accident report into what caused a 14-year-old boy to fall to his death while on an amusement park ride in Orlando last week, has found that the locking mechanism on Tyre Sampson’s seat was working, but that the 350-pound teenager may have been too heavy for the ride.
Sampson fell to his death last Thursday from the FreeFall drop tower at ICON Park on International Drive, which sees riders hoisted 430 feet in the air before forcefully dropping them at speeds reaching 75mph, exerting massive G-forces in the process.
Sampson, who was known at Big Tick to his friends and was a rising middle school football player, appeared to come out of the seat just as magnets activated to slow the ride down on its descent.
‘When the magnets engaged, the patron came out of the seat. Harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped,’ reads part of the report filed by the operator with the fair rides division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that is looking into the accident.
Fourteen-year-old Tyre Sampson, from Missouri, died at the Orlando Free Fall ride at the ICON amusement park on Thursday
Tyre Sampson, seen far right, fell to his death from world’s tallest drop ride in Orlando on Thursday night
A preliminary accident report has revealed that Sampson’s seat was locked
The ride had a maximum weight limit of 287lbs, but Sampson who was a rising football star at his school weighed closer to 350lbs
The report also lists three witnesses who were all employees. They are likely the same ones who could be heard on viral video asking if lights were on to show that the seats had been locked.
‘Didn’t you check it?’ one asks.
‘Yeah, the light was one,’ says a second person.
‘We both…we checked it. The light was on,’ a third worker says.
According to the ride’s operating manual, attendants also must manually check the restraints when loading a guest in, pulling on it to ensure it’s locked in.
The ride will also not ascend unless riders are locked into their seats.
But there are also suggestions that Sampson was well over the maximum weight limit allowed by the attraction.
Investigators have looked extremely closely at the ride where the accident occurred
One of the seats on the ride is seen to be covered up in black plastic
His parents described him as being 6’5″ and 340lbs – ‘he’s a big guy’, said Sampson’s father, Yarnell.
But the the ride’s operations and maintenance manual dictated that the maximum weight limit the ride could tolerate was around 287 pounds.
‘Be careful when seeing if large guests fit into the seats. Check that they fit within the contours of the seat and the bracket fits properly. If this is not so — Do not let this person ride,’ the manual explicitly states.
At this stage, it is not known whether Sampson fit the contours of the seat or if the bracket fit properly.
Tyre was a giant for his age, already the size of an NFL offensive lineman. His family says he aspired to play pro football, like many kids with athletic ability who see a way to buy their mother a house and lift everyone in the family to a new level.
Sampson’s cousin, Shay Johnson revealed that that Sampson had already been turned away from two other rides at the park on Thursday night.
Tyre was a giant for his age, already the size of an NFL offensive lineman. His family says he aspired to play pro football
‘He tried the (FreeFall) ride, they let him get on, but I don’t understand why would ya’ll? He can’t ride those two, but ya’ll let him get on (FreeFall)?’ Johnson said.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death and no criminal charges have been filed but the investigation remains open. The FreeFall ride which only opened in December 2021 is still closed for now.
ICON Park on Monday said it has demanded that Slingshot Group suspend another of its rides at the park, the Orlando SlingShot, ‘until such time as a thorough investigation by the appropriate authorities has been completed and all parties are satisfied that the rides are safe for the public,’ the park landlord said in a statement.
Investigators have been looking to see whether the shoulder restraint bar was faulty among other things. including the mechanical, electrical and hydraulic systems of the ride.
A crowd gathered outside Orlando’s Icon Park throughout the day and into the evening on Saturday to honor the 14-year old
A crowd of well wishers and passersby gathered to mourn the teen, dropping off flowers and footballs at a growing memorial in front of the ride
Some people wrote personalized messages of condolence on a poster
‘The restraint was definitely not properly secured,’ Ken Martin, a private ride safety inspector based in Virginia said to ClickOrlando.
‘They want to make sure all the mechanisms are working. I know and have seen pictures of the ride that indicate there are no seat belts on the ride, which would classify as only one redundant safety system.’
Martin said he was surprised that there were no seatbelts on the ride.
‘He didn’t fit in the ride, he just didn’t fit in the ride!’ Martin noted.
‘We know this young man has been reported by his father that he weighed 350 pounds. ‘I do not care how athletic a person is, or how strong they are. There is no way a person who weighs that amount subjected to -2 G’s can hold themselves in the ride,’
‘Words cannot express the sorrow felt by the tragic loss of such a young man, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this unimaginably difficult time,’ FDACS Commissioner Nikki Fried said in a statement on Monday.
‘The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is actively investigating the incident, along with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, and we hope the subsequent findings will be able to inform us all as to how this tragedy occurred and will precipitate any changes necessary to better protect patrons of amusement rides in Florida. Committed to transparency, the department will be providing relevant records online and updating those records as able.’
Tyre Sampson was said to be more than 60 pounds over the ride’s weight maximum limit
On Monday, Tyre’s father shared his despair as relatives launch a petition for the ride to be closed permanently.
Yarnell Sampson, spoke of the heartbreak his son’s sudden death caused him, after learning about the tragic news on social media videos of the harrowing accident.
‘I wish I was there to tell him I love him, that I’m sorry. For him to lose his life. So young, and I wish it was me,’ Sampson said to WESH.
‘I want to know what happened to my son. I want to know why my son is in a white bag, having to get shipped back home. He walked there. Why he can’t walk back? I want answers from everybody. Who all was involved in that?’ Sampson added.
Tyre’s family has also called for the ride to be permanently closed. His cousin, Shay Johnson, launched a petition on Monday that garnered hundreds of signatures from people visiting a memorial for the boy outside ICON Park.
‘My cousin lost his life over this ride. I don’t feel it’s safe, and feel it should be shut down before someone else’s family have to go through what we are going through,’ Johnson said.
His father, Yarnell Sampson, spoke on Monday about his heartbreak after his son’s sudden death. Tyre fell to his death from a towering Florida amusement ride
A petition launched on Monday to permanently close the ride garnered hundreds of signatures from people visiting a memorial for the boy outside ICON Park
Tyre Sampson, from Missouri, died at the Orlando Free Fall ride at the ICON amusement park on Thursday as his friend’s family helplessly watched him plummet 430-feet to the ground while the ride dropped at 75mph
Recounting the overwhelming despair he felt after watching horrific footage of Tyre slipping out of a harness and falling to his death, Sampson said he doesn’t think he can recover from the loss.
‘It felt like somebody hit me so hard in my stomach. I just lost, I lost, lost wind,’ he said.
‘And the pain behind it could never be taken away — and sorry’s not gonna take it back and no monies, no nothing in the world to replace the young man. And it’s just sad, a young man’s bright future was taken away from him over a ride, an amusement park,’ he added.
‘I would like for this ride to be taken down,’ Johnson said.
Isaiah Edwards, a TikTok star who visited the memorial and signed the petition, said he wanted to show his support to Tyre’s family.
‘We have kids ourselves, so this is someone’s child when it comes down to it. And any type of sympathetic feeling that you have as a human being you will try to come down here,’ said Edwards.
Tyre’s family has also called for the ride to be permanently closed. His cousin, Shay Johnson, launched a petition on Monday
The community has prepared a balloon release at the park at 6pm on Monday.
Lawyers representing Tyre’s family are trying to understand if there was negligence on behalf of the ride operators or if the teen’s size or other factors, played a role in the tragedy.
‘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 on Saturday.
‘This is going to be an issue of a lack of supervision and lack of training. A straight-up negligence case.’
Tyre’s stepmother has also said that he was a rising middle school football player
Attorneys Ben Crump, left, and Bob Hilliard have been hired to represent the family of Tyre Sampson
Crump, who is acting on behalf of the family, sent out a Tweet sending condolences
Video of the accident showed passengers on the ride as they discussed issues with an over-the-shoulder restraint harness.
Sampson’s stepmother said that she has seen videos of Tyre and his friends as they started their ascent with someone who could be overheard saying that he was not restrained in his seat.
‘What I’m hearing is his friend was talking to him before the situation happened,’ Yarnell said. ‘He was like, he don’t feel comfortable with the situation, ‘The thing’s not pushing down, you know what I’m saying? And if I don’t make it through then tell my mom and dad I love ’em.”
Tyre Sampson with family members in a photo posted by his mother Nekia Dodd on Facebook
The ride then began rotating as it moved up the the tower around 11pm on Thursday before someone is later seen falling from the ride.
The ride takes 30 people up to that height and then tilts so they face the ground for a moment or two, and then plummets toward the ground at speeds of 75 mph or more.
The well-known civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is working with Hilliard and represents Tyre’s father said the family is ‘shocked and heartbroken at the loss of their son.’
‘This young man was the kind of son everyone hopes for – an honor roll student, an aspiring athlete, and a kind-hearted person who cared about others,’ Crump said in a statement Saturday.
Investigators could be seen sitting on the ride as they attempted to establish what went wrong
Tyre is said to have had athletic ability and was deciding which school he would play football for
On Saturday the ride was completely closed as investigations took place into what happened
‘He had all the best qualities I never had,’ Sampson said to the Post. ‘He was intelligent. He was a good kid. He was a square. When he got focused on this football thing, his grades had to be up to play football, and that’s all he cared about. People was telling him, ‘You got a chance to make it, man,’ and he started to believe it.’
Tyre was part of a group called the St. Louis Bad Boyz football club who were in Orlando for a weeklong training camp, the Post-Dispatch reported. The group had chaperones and, by all accounts, were doing what millions do every year during spring break in Orlando: enjoying the theme parks and rides.
He was a student at the City Garden Montessori School in St. Louis.
He hadn’t yet decided whether to play football at Cardinal Ritter College Prep or East St. Louis High School.
The school sent a letter to parents Friday saying counseling would be available for students.
‘Tyre has been a City Garden student for many years, and was a beloved, and treasured member of our City Garden family. We will miss him tremendously and our hearts go out to his family and friends during this extremely difficult time,’ Christie Huck, the school’s CEO and principal Crystal Isom said in the letter.
Source: Daily Mail