‘This Is Not An Accident’ | Mother Of High School Football Player Tyre Sampson Killed On Amusement Ride Says Son Could Have Been Saved

Screen shot Twitter @ABC7NY

Tragedy befell the family of Tyre Sampson, a promising high school football standout who tragically passed when he fell from a free-fall ride at an amusement park in Orlando, Florida.

The 14-year-old had aspirations to play in the NFL and take care of his mother before they were cut short when he fell from the FreeFall drop tower ride at ICON Park.

Sampson was from St. Louis, Missouri, visiting Orlando with his high school football team over spring break.

“We’ve filed a complaint against Orlando’s ICON Park for the wrongful death of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson, who fell approximately 100 feet to his death on the Free Fall ride,” attorney Ben Crump tweeted.

Reason To Live

“He gave me reason to live,” Tyre’s father, Yarnell Sampson, said to CNN. “He earned a right to enjoy himself, and, unfortunately, he lost his life on that ride.

“He showed respect for others, he was still saying sir and yes ma’am in 2022.”

The FreeFall takes riders to the top of a 430-foot tower and falls at speeds of up to 75 mph, the website for Park says. Additionally, the sheriff’s office reported that operators call it the world’s tallest freestanding drop tower.

On Tuesday, Tyre Sampson’s mother, Nekia Todd, and her attorney Michael Haggard spoke at a news conference in St. Louis, revealing a seatbelt could have saved her son’s life.

A Seatbelt

Sampson’s life could have been saved by a $22 seat belt for a ride that seats 30 patrons. The ride’s designers reportedly recommended that the attraction should not use seat belts to accommodate larger riders.

The amusement attraction manufacturer’s recommended maximum rider weight is 287 pounds for the ride.

Tyre Sampson was 6-foot-5 inches and weighed 380 pounds.

Manipulating A Safety Device

“It would have cost $660 to save the life of a 14-year-old. They would have paid for that in two cycles of the ride,” Haggard said. “They intentionally manipulated it, so that when Tyre Sampson was on the ride, it opened 10-11 inches. Manipulating a safety device that tricks the sensor is a matter that I think law enforcement is going to be looking at in this case.”

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried provided an update on the ongoing investigation finding that modifications were made to the detriment of the ride. Additionally, a field investigation reportedly confirmed that the ride operator manually made adjustments to the rider harness, which was deemed unsafe.

“The report confirmed the manual adjustments had been made to the sensor of the seat in question that allowed the harness of the restrained opening to be almost double that of the normal restraint opening range,” said Fried at a press conference.

“These mis-adjustments allowed the safety lights to illuminate, improperly satisfying the rides’ electronic safety mechanisms that allowed the ride to operate even though Mr. Sampson was not properly restrained in his seat.”

Gap In Safety

There was a portion of the ride designated for “larger” riders and reportedly, the safety sensors for the two seats were manually adjusted to open wider but still showed the passengers as being locked in.

Sampson reportedly slipped through the gap between the seat and safety harness of a normally three-inch gap to between six and seven inches when he fell.

The Statement

R1ide manufacturer SlingShot Group released a statement.

“Orlando Slingshot has fully cooperated with the State during the initial phase of its investigation, and we will continue to do so until it has officially concluded. All protocols, procedures, and safety measures provided to us by the manufacturer of the ride were followed.

“Today’s report suggests a full review of the ride’s design, safety, operation, restraint mechanisms and history – which of course we welcome. We look forward to working with the Florida legislature to implement change in the industry, as the safety of our patrons is always our top priority.”

No Amusement

Additionally, ICON Park also released a statement.

“We are deeply troubled that the preliminary findings of the State’s investigation indicate a sensor on the Orlando FreeFall attraction, which is owned and operated by the SlingShot Group, had been mis-adjusted after the sensor was originally secured in place,” said ICON Park in a statement.

“ICON Park is committed to providing a safe, fun experience for families. We will continue to support the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services with their ongoing investigation.”

The ride has been closed until further notice.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.