ORLANDO, Fla. – A 14-year-old boy who fell to his death from a thrill ride at ICON Park in Orlando was identified by the Orange County sheriff during a news conference Friday.
Tyre Sampson, from Missouri, fell from the Orlando Free Fall around 11:10 p.m. Thursday. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Orange County deputies said.
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“And based on all of our preliminary investigation information, it appears to be a terrible tragedy, but our investigation is still open,” Mina said.
He added Sampson was visiting Orlando with a friend’s family.
Sampson’s youth football coach, AJ Jones of Bad Boyz Football, spoke with News 6 Friday, saying he was “devastated” and shocked to hear about the teen’s tragic death.
Jones described the “humble giant” as a straight-A student and respectable young man who had dreams of making it to the NFL after college. He said he was set to be the starting offensive lineman at East St. Louis High School in the fall.
Tyre Sampson was an honor roll student and an aspiring football player, his father Yarnell Sampson told CNN.
His son “was a very good young man. He was a big teddy bear, a gentle giant,” the father said to CNN, adding Tyre Sampson was a “kindhearted kid” who would give the shirt off his back to anyone who needed it.
“I saw the video of my son falling down, and I couldn’t believe (it). My life stopped,” Yarnell Sampson said to CNN.
The school Sampson attended, City Garden School, sent out a letter to families Friday evening, alerting them to the tragedy.
“Tyre has been a City Garden student for many years, and was a beloved and treasured member of our City Garden family. We will miss him tremendously and our hearts go out to his family and friends during this extremely difficult time,” the statement from the school’s CEO and its principal read. “Tyre was well known to our students and our staff, and we are prepared to support them as we all attempt to process this tragedy. We will have counselors available to talk with our students and our staff when we return from Spring Break on Monday, March 28.”
The school also suggested parents do when they could to keep children from reading or viewing the news of Sampson’s death online, and that the school would be making plans to memorialize the student.
The ride, which opened in December and is billed as the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower, takes up to 30 guests high into the air before dropping 400 feet at about 75 mph.
The company that operates the thrill ride said it is working with authorities to determine what happened.
“Our hearts go out to the family of this young man,” said John Stine, director of sales and marketing for The SlingShot Group.
Stine said the ride will remain closed indefinitely.