Florida amusement park death: Family of child who fell from Orlando ride say tragedy could have been prevented

ORLANDO, Fla. — The family of the teenager, who died after falling off a ride at a Florida amusement park, told Good Morning America his death was preventable.

“It could have been prevented…it should have been prevented,” Nekia Dodd, Tyre Sampson’s mother, told GMA. “So, as a driver, your job is to check those rides, you know. The video I saw was not made. And when it was done, it should have been done more than once, you know.”

Sampson, 14, died March 24 after falling from a ride at ICON Park in Orlando. His parents filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit Monday.

MORE: Family sues after teenager falls to death on amusement park ride

Dodd and Tire Sampson’s father, Yarnell Sampson, filed the lawsuit in the 9th Circuit Court in Orange County, Florida, accusing Orlando’s ICON Park and other defendants, including the manufacturer and operator of the FreeFall nerve ride, of negligence.


A makeshift memorial to Tire Sampson is seen ahead of the Orlando Free Fall ride at the ICON Park entertainment complex on April 20, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. (Phelan M. Ebenhack via AP)

“Tyre had a long and prosperous life ahead of him that was cut short by this tragic event,” the lawsuit reads.

“Orlando Slingshot continues to cooperate fully with the state during his investigation, and we will continue to do so until it is officially closed,” Trevor Arnold, attorney for Orlando Slingshot, said in a statement to ABC News. “We reiterate that all protocols, procedures and safety measures provided by the ride manufacturer have been followed. We look forward to working with the Florida Legislature to implement changes in the industry, and we also support the concepts outlined by State Representative Geraldine Thompson through the ‘Tyre Sampson Bill’ to make changes to state law to prevent a tragic accident like this ever happened again.

Last week, officials listed operator error as the main cause of the death of Sampson, who slipped out of his seat on a drop tower ride and fell more than 100 feet onto the sidewalk.

SEE ALSO: Who Regulates Theme Parks? Questions raised after a boy falls from a ride at ICON Park and dies

In a preliminary report released by investigators, a forensic engineering firm hired by the state of Florida found that Sampson was “not properly secured in the seat” and a safety sensor was “manually adjusted,” increasing the distance between the restraint belt and the seat.

According to the report, bystander video of the incident shows the gap in Sampson’s seat was between 6 and 7 inches, more than the restraint opening for other seats, which was 3.3 inches.

As the ride dropped, the bar could open wider, up to 11 inches, and investigators said Sampson “slid through the gap between the seat and the harness” as the ride slowed. His seat belt was still in the down position when the ride came to a halt.

Sampson’s family said he would have been alive if there had been a seat belt on the FreeFall ride.


In this screenshot from the video, Nekia Dodd, the mother of Tire Sampson, who died in an accident at an Orlando amusement park last month, is shown during an interview with GMA.

They also claimed there were no signs near or on the ride, which has a maximum passenger weight of about 287 pounds, indicating height restrictions, and Sampson shouldn’t have been on the ride due to his size. According to the lawsuit, he weighed 380 pounds.

Dodd told GMA she hopes filing the lawsuit will prevent a repeat of such an incident.

“I want the ride to be gone. Path. Because it would not take a child or anyone to lose their life to legislate,” she said. “That could have been prevented.”

Sampson’s parents are scheduled to hold a press conference with their attorneys on Tuesday to discuss the legal action.

The FreeFall ride remains closed pending a full investigation.

ABC News’ Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 ABC News Internet Ventures. Florida amusement park death: Family of child who fell from Orlando ride say tragedy could have been prevented

Dais Johnston

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