Teen Was ‘Freaking Out’ on Florida Ride Before Falling to His Death: Father

Teen Was ‘Freaking Out’ on Florida Ride Before Falling to His Death: Father
ICON Park attractions, The Wheel, left, Orlando SlingShot, middle, and Orlando FreeFall, right, are shown in Orlando, Fla. on March 24, 2022. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)
Jack Phillips

The father of a 14-year-old boy who died after falling hundreds of feet from a Florida amusement park ride said he “was uncomfortable” before the incident.

Yarnell Sampson said his son Tyre Sampson felt unsafe as soon as the “Free-Fall” ride at ICON Park in Orlando started to go up.

“When the ride took off, that’s when he was feeling uncomfortable. He was like ‘this thing is moving,’ you know what I’m saying. And he was like ‘what’s going on?’” Samson told Fox 35. “And that’s when he started freaking out,” the father continued.

Tyre then allegedly told a friend beside him: “If I don’t make it down tell … Please tell my mama and daddy I love them,” according to his father.

Lawyers representing the boy’s family are investigating whether there was negligence on behalf of the ride operators.

“This young man, he was athletic and he was big. He had no way of knowing,” said Bob Hilliard, a Texas attorney who represents Tyre Sampson’s mother, Nekia Dodd, in a statement on Saturday. Tyre reportedly weighed more than 300 pounds and was 6 feet, 5 inches tall.

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

In a written statement, Ben Crump, another attorney representing the boy’s family, asked anyone who witnessed the incident to contact his team.

“A fun theme park visit with his football team should not have ended in tragedy,” Crump said over the weekend. “Bob Hilliard and I, on behalf of both parents, Yarnell and Nekia, intend to get answers for Tyre’s grieving family and request prayers as they shoulder this unthinkable loss.”

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

John Stine, a spokesman for the group, added to news outlets that “it’s very difficult to say [what could have gone wrong]. The way the ride is designed, with all the safety features and redundancy, there shouldn’t be an issue. We are deeply saddened and sorry.

Orange County Sheriff John Mina has said the incident does not appear to be intentional. An investigation is ongoing.

The ride takes patrons up to that height, tilts so they face the ground for a moment or two, and then plummets toward the ground at speeds of 75 mph or more.

The Epoch Times has contacted the ride operator for comment.

The Associate Press contributed to this report.
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X: https://twitter.com/jackphillips5
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