Tyre Sampson: Family of ‘kind-hearted’ teenager, who fell from 430ft Orlando funfair ride, ‘shocked and heartbroken’ at loss | US News

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A teenager who fell to his death from a ride at a theme park “was the kind of son everyone hopes for”, a spokesman for his family has said.

Tyre Sampson, 14, died when he fell from the 430ft (131m) ride that recently opened at Orlando’s ICON Park in Florida on Thursday, leaving his family “shocked and heartbroken at the loss of their son”, civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who represents Tyre’s father, Yarnell Sampson, said.

An aspiring American Football player, Tyre was “an honour roll student” and “a kind-hearted person who cared about others”, Mr Crump added.

The teenager from St Louis, Missouri, was six feet, five inches (1.95m) tall and weighed well over 21 stones (136kg).

The ride is billed as the tallest of its kind in the world
The ride is billed as the tallest of its kind in the world

Questions over his size and whether he was secure

Lawyers for his family want to know if negligence about his size, or other factors, played a part when he dropped out of his seat on the free-fall ride, billed as the tallest attraction of its kind in the world, NBC said.

Pictures published online have raised questions about whether he was properly secured before the ride began.

In video shown by NBC, an employee can be seen shouting “seatbelt! seatbelt!” to passengers as they begin to rise up the tower.

The ride takes patrons up to a height of 430ft and tilts for a moment or two before it plummets toward the ground at a speed of around 75mph (121kph).

Theme park fully cooperating with investigators

Bob Hilliard, the lawyer for the boy’s mother, Nekia Dodd, said that Tyre “was athletic and he was big” and ” had no way of knowing” if his size may have been a factor associated with his death.

“This is going to be an issue of a lack of supervision and lack of training,” he added. “A straight-up negligence case.”

ICON Park said in a statement it is fully cooperating with investigators.

The ride, which opened in December 2021 on International Drive, a major tourist area, will be closed indefinitely, the theme park said.

The SlingShot Group, which operates the ride, said in a statement: “We are heartbroken with the incident that took the life of one of our guests. We extend our condolences and deepest sympathy to his family and friends.”

‘He was going to be a great football player’

Tyre’s family said the linebacker wanted to play professional American football.

Wendy Wooten, his stepmother, said it “was his dream, and he was on his way”.

She added: “He had so many scouts looking at him. He was going to be a great football player.”

Tyre, who was a student at the City Garden Montessori School in St Louis, was part of a group called the St Louis Bad Boyz football club who were in Orlando for a week-long training camp, according to reports.

Mr Crump said the boy’s grieving parents “intend to get answers”, adding: “A fun theme park visit with his football team should not have ended in tragedy.”

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