This past Thursday evening, a 14-year-old boy died while at an amusement park in Florida as a result of falling out of a ride.
At the ICON park at roughly 11 p.m., Tyre Sampson of Missouri fell out of the Orlando Free Fall ride as groups of horrified onlookers helplessly witnessed the incident take place. Sampson was in Florida as part of a family vacation with the family of one of his friends.
In the wake of the incident, law enforcement officials are holding an official investigation of the park and its various attractions. John Mina, the Orange County Sheriff, stated at a press conference this past Friday that “it appears to be just a terrible tragedy. We will see moving forward what that results in,” as reported by The Daily Mail.
The ride in question, The Orlando Free Fall, had many riders strap into their respective seats in a circle facing outward. The seats are then catapulted several hundred feet into the air up a large tower before dropping rapidly back down to the ground at speeds up to 70 miles per hour.
Sampson seems to have come untethered from his seat as the ride started its speedy descent, resulting in him being flung from the ride into the concrete below. It is still entirely unclear as to why Sampson lost his seat mid-ride. A picture making its way across social media was taken prior to the beginning of the ride seemed to show that Sampson had the crossbar in the correct place buckled down on his chest, but not locked correctly into his seat using the strap made to secure the riders in position.
A call to 911 in the wake of the incident stated that “they didn’t secure the seatbelt on him.”
"They didn't secure the seatbelt on him."
That's the claim of this 911 caller after a 14-year-old fell to his death on the Orlando Free-Fall drop tower at ICON Park.
— JB Biunno #HeyJB (@WFLAJB) March 25, 2022
There was a video captured that shows Sampson’s fall, and a pair of park workers can be heard talking about the incident directly in the wake of it. One of the workers asks, “did you check him?”
“Yeah, the light was on,” claimed the second, seemingly in reference to an indicator light on the ride that tells the operators if the seat restraint is locked in place.
WESH2 called in an interview with an expert on theme park safety, that stated that typically, when injuries, or even death, take place in regards to theme park rides, it is almost certainly the fault of the operator.
“They tend to be operator error … as the root cause,” claimed Nathan MacDonald, an Alpine Engineering & Design them park safety expert. “That’s one of the reasons why training and, you know, following the correct procedures in terms of operating the ride safely is absolutely critical.”
“There’s only so much that a designer can do. At the end of the day you really have to rely on the operator, operating the ride, properly,” claimed MacDonald.
One attorney who has represented many plaintiffs in a larger number of very high-profile cases such as the death of George Floyd, Attorney Ben Crump, released an announcement on Saturday that his firm has stepped up to represent the Sampson family at this time.
“This family is shocked and heartbroken at the loss of their son. This young man was the kind of son every parent hopes for – an honor roll student, an aspiring athlete, and a kind-hearted person who cared about others. Needless to say, his family is absolutely devasted. A fun theme park visit with his football team should not have ended in tragedy. Bob Hilliard and I, on behalf of both parents, Yarnell and Neki, intend to get answers for Tyre’s grieving family and request prayers as they shoulder this unthinkable loss,” claimed Crump in a release.