Family of boy who fell off ride files wrongful death lawsuit against Florida amusement park

Tyre Sampson, 14, died last month at ICON Park in Orlando; family attorney Ben Crump said the defendants "showed negligence in a multitude of ways.”

The family of Tyre Sampson, the 14-year-old boy who died last month after falling from an Orlando amusement park ride, filed a lawsuit accusing the park, the attraction’s operator, manufacturer and others for negligence. 

According to NBC News, Yarnell Sampson and Nekia Dodd, Sampson’s father and mother, are named as the plaintiffs in a 65-page lawsuit filed Monday, one week after the Florida Commission of Agriculture and Consumer Services concluded in a report that the operator of the Free Fall drop tower at ICON Park manually changed the sensor on specific ride seats, an action “resulting in it being unsafe,” The Orlando Sentinel reported.

Family members and friends of Tyre Sampson leave items at a vigil in front of the Orlando Free Fall drop tower in ICON Park in Orlando, Florida. Sampson, 14, was killed last month when he fell from the ride. (Photo: Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

“Tyre was … an honor-roll student and football player,” the lawsuit stated. “Despite his prowess on the football field, he was known as a kind-hearted person who cared about others. Tyre had a long and prosperous life in front of him that was cut short by this tragic event.” 

The teenager was in Florida from the St. Louis, Missouri area for a trip with his football team. 

The suit alleges that the ride was “unreasonably dangerous,” according to USA Today, and also asserts that the defendants “owed a duty to its customers, including Plaintiffs’ decedent, TYRE SAMPSON, to exercise reasonable care in operating, managing, maintaining, designing, inspecting, constructing, testing, fixing, and/or controlling the amusement park rides located on its premises, including the subject Free Fall amusement park ride.” 

The ICON Park attraction has been closed indefinitely. 

As previously reported by theGrio, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried found after an investigation by an outside engineering firm that sensors were manually changed on at least two Free Fall seats, which allowed harnesses on certain seats to open to “almost double” the normal range. The ride had safety harnesses, but not seatbelts, and the report points out that other similar rides have both. 

Sampson, at nearly 340 pounds, was in one of the maladjusted seats.

“These mis-adjustments allowed the safety lights to illuminate and properly satisfy the ride’s electronic safety mechanisms that allowed the ride to operate, even though Mr. Sampson was not properly secured in the seat,” Fried said in an April 18 news conference.

“The defendants in Tyre’s case showed negligence in a multitude of ways,” Sampson family attorney Ben Crump said in a statement. “One of the most glaring examples was failing to provide a $22 seatbelt on a ride that cost several million dollars to construct.”

Along with ICON Park, Funtime Handels GmbH and Gerstlauer Amusement Rides GMBH, the Austria-based firm that designed and manufactured the Free Fall, plus Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot LLC, its owner, are also named in the lawsuit. 

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