Photo Credit: TN
Drop Tower Ride In Orlando Leaves 14-Year-Old Boy Dead, Causing Dismay Across The Country
It was supposed to be a fun day at one of the most popular tourist attractions in Orlando, Florida. However, the day turned out to be tragic for the family and friends of Tyre Sampson.
On Thursday, March 24, Sampson, 14, from Missouri, was reported dead after falling while riding an ICON Park drop tower attraction, according to officials from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. He slipped out of his seat on the ride as it plummeted to the ground, Fox 35 News reported. The ICON Park Drop Tower in Orlando is considered the world’s tallest free ride and it is owned by Slingshot Group of Companies. Opened in December 2021, the ride can accommodate 30 riders when loaded to capacity. The ride rises nearly 400 feet and free falls from the top at approximately 75 miles per hour.
What authorities say happened
Law enforcement officers, firefighters, and paramedics responded immediately after receiving a 911 call reporting the incident at the Drop Tower Ride in Orlando, which opened in December 2021, Fox 35 News Orlando said.
“It appears to be a terrible tragedy,” Orange County Sheriff John Mina said during a news conference on Friday. “Our prayers and thoughts are with the family,” he said. The Florida Department of Agriculture and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office was designated to carry out the investigations to clarify the causes of the accident.
However, initial investigations indicate that the lack of seatbelts might be the cause of the accident. A video taken before the ride went into the air showed others appear sitting with their harnesses down asking the operator if there are clip-in seatbelts “There ain’t no seatbelts,” the operator told them before sending the ride into the air with the group held in by pull-down plastic harnesses. The graphic video showing Tyre falling from the free ride reached over 3 million views.
John Stine, director of marketing for the Slingshot Group, told CBS News the ride is designed to only operate if riders are locked in. “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,” said Stine.
Tyre's father speaks out
On Friday, Tyre’s father, Yarnell Sampson, spoke out about the sad incident involving the death of his son.
“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,” Yarnell Sampson said. According to his father, the eighth-grader dreamed of a professional football career so that he could someday buy his mother a house.
Tyre was in Orlando training with teammates and coaches through the STL Bad Boyz Football Program, a Nationally Ranked youth program based out of St. Louis.
Nicknamed by his friends as Big Thick, Tyre was 6′5″, 325 pounds.
According to Sampson’s father, the young boy had reservations about getting on the ride after being turned down from other rides due to his size.
“He was panicking when he was going
up,” Sampson’s father told Fox 35 Orlando. “When the ride took off, that’s when he was feeling uncomfortable. He was like, ‘What’s going on?’ 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.”
According to Fox News 35, a growing memorial for Tyre Sampson was placed in the wake of his death.
A growing memorial tonight for 14-year-old Tyre Sampson. Tyre died after falling from a drop tower ride at ICON Park. He dreamed of being a football player.
More info here: https://t.co/AhYr2pBeNK pic.twitter.com/KHJAHEg0et
— Stephanie Buffamonte FOX 35 (@StephBuffamonte) March 26, 2022
Prayers pour in
The death of Tyre shocked all over the internet after the news about the incident quickly went viral on social media.
Strangers, and even those who knew Sampson, showed love and support online over the tragic death of the young teen.
Get your rest kid, as a coach you hate that phone call I received last night, Please keep his family and former/current teammates and coaches in prayer #RIPBigTick 💔💔💔💔🏈🏈https://t.co/Z2ZEkzruxs pic.twitter.com/oswcfzLzFZ
— Brandon Gregory (@CochBG4) March 25, 2022
Prayers to the family of 14 year old, Tyre Sampson 🥺🙏🏽
— Biannca Prince (@bianncarraines) March 26, 2022
Please join me in sending prayers to the family of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson as they go through the unthinkable loss of their son — an honor roll student, aspiring athlete, and kind-hearted person who cared about others. 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/JDVp4MHyoV
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) March 26, 2022
Everybody showing the video how this young man died. I want to show a video how he lived. ( I did not know him personally) My condolences to the family and friends of Tyre Sampson everyone knew him as “Big Tick ” R.I.P ❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/9wBkUno7De
— ❤️ Lisa ❤️ (@wilkerson036) March 26, 2022
What happens now?
ICON Park has released a statement in the wake of Sampson’s death.
“Tonight, the ICON Park family is grieving because of the tragedy involvingTyre Sampson. Our heartfelt thoughts are with his family and friends,” read the statement. “ICON Park is committed to being a place where families can spend quality time together in a safe and fun space. We are in close coordination and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement and regulators regarding our tenant, the SlingShot Group.”
According to officials, the ride will be closed indefinitely.