Woman claiming to be cousin of teen killed in fall from Orlando drop tower not known to family, deputies say

Mother of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson told detectives she does not know woman

Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried to host Orlando news briefing on drop tower death investigation

ORLANDO, Fla. – A woman who claimed to be related to a 14-year-old boy who died after falling from an Orlando thrill ride is not known to the teen’s family, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Tyre Sampson was visiting from Missouri on spring break last week when he fell from Orlando FreeFall, the world’s tallest drop tower attraction, in Orlando’s ICON Park. After his death, Shay Johnson, a woman claiming to be his cousin, spoke on behalf of the family and claimed to have spoken with the teen the day he died.

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However, Sampson’s mother told detectives she does not know the woman, according to the sheriff’s office. A spokesperson with the sheriff’s office said as of Thursday, there was no report filed against the woman by the family and “At this point, they have no evidence of a crime.”

Witnesses called 911 after seeing the teen fall from the ride as it was plummeting down. Video showing the fatal fall, which News 6 and ClickOrlando.com will not show due to its graphic nature, was shared on social media. It appears to show the boy slipping from his harness before the fall.

It’s not known how the boy fell from the drop tower, which is taller than the Statue of Liberty.

The company that operates the ride, the SlingShot Group, told News 6 that workers are responsible for checking lights on the restraint system to ensure they are properly secured. The company added that the ride will not operate if the restraints do not lock properly.

“The ride will not ascend unless the harnesses are locked in,” said John Stine, director of sales and marketing for The SlingShot Group. “There were no indications there was anything different. So this is what we’ve got to find out.”

[RELATED: Cause of teen’s fatal fall from Orlando thrill ride still unknown]

As of Friday, the cause of the teen’s fatal fall has not yet been determined as an investigation continues, according to the state agency leading the investigation. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried said a forensic engineering firm, which will look back at the ride’s calibrations and mechanisms in the movement, was hired to assist in the investigation and analyze what may have caused the boy’s fatal fall.

“We are fully committed to finding out what happened so we can better prevent such tragedies from happening in the future. And that’s why we will not be jumping to any conclusions before the information is provided to us and we know all the facts,” she said.

Orlando Free Fall and the adjacent Orlando Sling Shot, also operated by The Slingshot Group, will remain closed indefinitely, Stine said.


About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.