A 14-year-old boy fell to his death from a 430ft high theme park ride at the ICON theme park in Orlando, FL on Thursday, March 24.
Tyre Sampson was visiting the theme park from St. Louis, Missouri through a football program. According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Sampson fell from the Orlando Free Fall ride at ICON Park shortly after 11 pm.
A video of the tragic event went viral on social media, showing the moment when a person appears to fall from the ride about five seconds into the 430ft-drop down the tower.
Tyre was rushed to the Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and died of his injuries according to officials.
The Orlando Free Fall ride is described by the theme park as “the world’s tallest freestanding drop tower.” It opened in December of 2021.
According to Orange County Sheriff John W. Mina in a press conference, the investigation into the teen’s death is ongoing and charges have not yet been filed. Sheriff Mina stated that based on the preliminary investigations, there were no indications of problems with the ride prior to the accident.
“It appears to be a terrible tragedy. Our prayers and thoughts are with the family. We can’t imagine what they’re going through.”
According to Fox35, the 14-year-old’s father, Yarnell Sampson, found out from one of his son’s friends who was on the ride with him that Tyre could sense something was wrong with the ride.
“He was panicking when he was going up,” Yarnell Sampson said. He went on to say that Tyre “started freaking out” when the ride took off.
“That’s when he started freaking out, and he was explaining to his friend next to him, ‘I don’t know, man. If I don’t make it down, please tell my Mom and Daddy I love them.’ For him to say something like that, he must have felt something.”
The boy’s father went on to add that due to his son’s height and weight, he hadn’t been allowed onto other rides in the park. Tyre was 6’5” tall and weighed 340 pounds.
“This one particular ride said, ‘We can take you, come on! Get on!’ No one else allowed him to get on the ride, so I’m wondering what happened between now and then that made them say, ‘Come on, get this ride!’”
Yarnell Sampson told the news outlet that his son was an honor roll student and had plans to become a professional football player.
“This should never happen to anyone else’s child ever again,” Sampson said. “And if I have anything to do with this, it will not happen ever again.”
The teen’s father told CNN that he saw the video allegedly showing his son’s fall from the ride on Facebook.
“I saw the video of my son falling down, and I couldn’t believe [it]. My life stopped.”
John Stine, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Slingshot Group, which owns the Orlando Free Fall ride, told CNN affiliate Spectrum News 13 that the 14-year-old had been secured in the ride’s seat before the accident.
“We operate the ride with all the safety precautions in mind, and everything is in place, and this is why we’re doing an investigation,” Stine said.
Sheriff Mina said his office has yet to determine if Tyre Sampson’s death was accidental. Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will be investigating whether the ride’s safety was compromised.