Parents of boy killed at Florida amusement park file wrongful death lawsuit

(ORLANDO, Fla.) – The parents of a 14-year-old boy who died in a march from the tallest tower in the world to a Florida amusement park filed a civil lawsuit for wrongful death on Monday, alleging that park officials did not failed to warn runners of “unreasonably dangerous and foreseeable risks”.

The tragedy unfolded on March 24 when Tire Sampson, who was on spring break, slipped from his seat and fell more than 100 feet to his death, according to the lawsuit.

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

“Tyre had a long and prosperous life ahead of him which was cut short by this tragic event,” the lawsuit states, adding that the teenager was an honor student and football player at his St. Louis school.

Sampson’s parents are scheduled to hold a press conference with their lawyers on Tuesday morning to discuss the lawsuit.

The lawsuit comes a week after Florida state officials announced the findings of a field investigation report by a forensic engineer into the incident that killed Sampson.

The report showed that the operator of the FreeFall ride, which is the tallest freestanding drop tower in the world at a height of 430ft, “made manual adjustments to the ride which made it unsafe”.

The Quest Engineering & Failure Analysis, Inc. report states that manual manipulations were made to the seat Sampson was sitting in to allow the harness restraint opening to be loosened, apparently to accommodate the older teen. of 300 lbs. The investigation found that Sampson’s harness restraint opening was “nearly double that of a normal restraint opening range”.

Nikki Fried, Florida’s agriculture and consumer services commissioner, said the adjustment by the individual operator, who was not identified in the report, allowed FreeFall’s sensor lights to go off. turn on, “inappropriately satisfying” the ride’s electronic safety mechanisms and allowing the ride to operate “even if Mr. Sampson was not properly restrained in his seat”.

Fried said the initial permit inspection for the new ride was done in December and no discrepancies were found.

“We followed the protocols, we followed the manual, and everything was according to the manufacturer’s manual,” Fried told reporters.

She said the investigation into the incident is ongoing.

In addition to the amusement park, the lawsuit names as defendants Extreme Amusement Rides, the owner and operator of the ride which also does business as The SlingShot Group of Companies; the amusement ride’s manufacturer, Funtime Handels GMBH of Austria; and Keator Construction, LLC, the general contractor responsible for constructing the attraction.

Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, a Germany-based company that made the seats and safety harnesses for the FreeFall, was also named as a defendant.

The state investigation determined that the “normal” retainer opening for FreeFall ride seats was 3.33 inches. Sampson’s seat was adjusted before the ride started to a 7.19-inch opening, the inquest found.

Florida State Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, told a press conference last week that the manufacturer’s guidelines for the FreeFall specifically state that the maximum rider weight is 250 pounds. .

On the day of the incident, Sampson was 6-foot-2 and weighed 380 pounds, according to the lawsuit.

“No weight or height restrictions were posted at the counter, and no employee, agent, apparent agent, servant or contractor of ICON or SlingShot informed Tyr of any weight or height restrictions” , says the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that ICON Park and The SlingShot Group “knew or should have known” based on their own testing that FreeFall riders would be “subjected to unreasonably dangerous and foreseeable risks, and that serious injury and death to occupants of the merry-go-round could result.”

ICON Park had no immediate comment on the lawsuit, but a spokesperson told ABC News that attorneys for the park are expected to release a statement soon.

Trevor Arnold, an attorney for the SlingShot Group, said in a statement Monday to ABC News that the company “continues to fully cooperate with the state during its investigation, and we will continue to do so until it is officially concluded”.

“We reaffirm that all protocols, procedures and safety measures provided by the ride manufacturer were followed,” Arnold said. “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 to make changes to the law of the state through the “Tire Sampson Bill” to prevent a tragic accident like this from ever happening again.”

In a statement last week to ABC News, ICON Park was “deeply troubled” by the state’s preliminary investigation which found the ride operator had improperly adjusted the harness and the safety sensor light on the ride. FreeFall. “ICON Park is committed to providing a safe and fun experience for families. We will continue to support the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in their ongoing investigation,” the amusement park said.

A representative for Keator Construction said the company had no comment. Funtime Handels GMBH and Gerstlauer Amusement Rides have not yet responded to ABC News’ requests for comment.

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Harold B. McConnell