Family of teenager who died after fall from Florida Amusement Park Ride sues for wrongful death

Samson tire

Family photo Samson tire

The family of Tire Sampson, 14, who fell from a ride at a Florida amusement park last month, filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Monday.

Sampson, a vacationing Missouri teenager, died after falling from the Orlando FreeFall attraction at ICON Park around 11 p.m. on March 24, officials previously said.

In the complaint, parents Nekia Dodd and Yarnell Sampson say their son, an “honor roll student and football player”, was on a spring break trip when he “fell at least a hundred feet down ‘to his death’ after being ‘thrown’ from the ride.

“Despite his prowess on the football pitch, he was known as a generous person who cared about others,” the complaint reads. “Tyre had a long and prosperous life ahead of him which was cut short by this tragic event.”

The lawsuit is filed against a number of entities associated with the amusement park ride, including SlingShot Group owner-operator Icon Park, ride maker Fun Time Thrill Rides and Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, which made the seats and harnesses.

“Orlando Slingshot continues to cooperate fully with the state during its investigation, and we will continue to do so until it is formally concluded,” an attorney for Orlando Slingshot said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

“We reaffirm that all protocols, procedures and safety measures provided by the ride manufacturer were followed,” the statement continued. “We look forward to working with the Florida Legislature to implement changes in the industry and we also support the concepts outlined by State Rep. Geraldine Thompson to make changes to state law by the through the “Tire Sampson Bill” in order to prevent a tragic accident like this from ever happening again.”

Icon Park, Fun Time Thrill Rides and Gerstlauer Amusement Rides did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.

RELATED: Safety sensor on teen’s harness was manually adjusted while riding before fatal fall: officials

The complaint alleges that the amusement park ride was “unreasonably dangerous” and that staff were negligent in allowing Sampson, who was 6ft 2in and weighed around 380lbs, to ride the ride.

“Icon Park’s Free Fall ride is the tallest free-standing drop tower in the world, at 430 feet. Once the ride reaches the top, it tilts forward 30° and freely falls several hundred of feet at speeds over 75 miles per hour.” the complaint states. “When they come to a stop, the runners feel a g-force of about 4. To put that into perspective, the g-force the astronauts feel as the shuttle lifts off is 3.”

The complaint also alleges that unlike “most” similar freefall rides, the attraction “only had a shoulder harness to ‘secure’ the riders.”

Samson tire

Samson tire

Family photo Samson tire

The lawsuit was filed a week after new details about what may have contributed to Sampson’s death were released by Florida officials.

A report finalized by Quest Engineering and Failure Analysis “confirmed our department’s conclusion that the Orlando drop tower operator made manual adjustments to the ride that made it unsafe,” said Nikki Fried, commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, in a press release. conference.

“The report confirms that manual adjustments were made to the sensor in the seat in question to allow the harness restraint opening to be nearly twice the restraint’s normal opening range,” Fried continued. “These incorrect settings allowed the safety lights to come on, improperly satisfying the ride’s electronic safety mechanisms, which allowed the ride to operate, even though Mr. Sampson was not properly secured in the seat. .”

“As noted in the report, there are numerous other potential contributing factors that may have played a role in the incident, and this is what our department continues to investigate,” Freid added.

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“We are deeply troubled that preliminary findings from the state’s investigation indicate that a sensor on the Orlando FreeFall attraction, which is owned and operated by the SlingShot Group, was improperly fitted after the sensor was initially fixed in place,” said ICON Park. in a statement to PEOPLE at the time.

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

RELATED: Dad learned his son, 14, died from fall from amusement park on social media: ‘Hit Me So Hard’

“Orlando Slingshot has fully cooperated with the State during the initial phase of its investigation, and we will continue to do so until it is formally concluded. All protocols, procedures and safety precautions provided to us provided by the amusement ride’s manufacturer were tracked,” Trevor Arnold, attorney for Orlando SlingShot, said in a previous statement to PEOPLE.

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

A GoFundMe was set up by Sampson’s mother.

Harold B. McConnell