The father of the 14-year-old boy who plunged 400 feet to his death on a Florida amusement park ride said he learned of his son’s death on social media.
“I wish I was there to tell him I love him. That I’m sorry. For him to lose his life. So young, and I wish it was me,” Yarnell Sampson, the father of the victim, Tyre Sampson, told WESH2 in Orlando in an interview published Monday.
“I want to know what happened to my son. I want to know why my son is in a white bag, having to get shipped back home. He walked there. Why he can’t walk back? I want answers from everybody. Who all was involved in that?” he added, saying that his son was from St. Louis, Missouri, and was visiting the ICON Park on a spring break trip.
Sampson recalled learning about his son’s death while seeing the video of the fall spreading online.
“It felt like somebody hit me so hard in my stomach. I just lost, I lost, lost wind. And the pain behind it could never be taken away, and sorry’s not gonna take it back and no monies, no nothing in the world to replace the young man. And it’s just sad, a young man’s bright future was taken away from him over a ride, an amusement park,” the father added to the outlet.
At the same time, there were safety concerns raised about the free-fall ride before Tyre dropped to his death.
A man who filmed the boy’s death who identified himself only as Ivan told WESH2 that a friend went on the ride but he decided not to.
“This could have been one of my friends that it happened to,” he said, adding that his friends were two seats away from the victim. “It’s not what you would expect from a ride in the heart of Orlando. We’re known for our amusement parks, for our thrill rides.”
“Why doesn’t this have the little clicky click? The seatbelt,” his friend reportedly asked an employee, according to video footage posted online. Ivan told WESH2 that his friend, who was not identified, raised those concerns.
“In most rides, you have your harness that pulls down on you. But you also have the additional secondary seatbelt,” Ivan said. “This does not have that. And it’s really concerning especially being a new ride not to have that.”
The Slingshot Group, which operates the ride, said it is cooperating with authorities. The free-fall ride is closed pending an investigation.
John Stine, a spokesman for the Slingshot Group, said the ride can only operate if the riders are locked into their seats, CBS News reported.
“It’s very difficult to say” what went wrong, he said. “The way the ride is designed, with all the safety features and redundancy, there shouldn’t be an issue.”