Tyre Sampson remembered 1 year after fatal plunge from Orlando FreeFall

Sampson’s father, family’s attorneys call for change

ORLANDO, Fla. – An event Friday morning was held to remember Tyre Sampson, the teenager who died last year when he fell off an attraction at Orlando’s ICON Park.

Sampson’s father, along with the family’s attorneys Ben Crump and Bob Hilliard, led the event at the site of the Orlando FreeFall attraction, which was dismantled this month.

“This year been totally rough for me. Physically, mentally and spiritually,” he said. “...I’m speaking up for the voiceless. I am my son’s voice. Tyre Sampson is my son, which I named. My name is Yarnell Sampson. Through this journey I have learned a lot about trusting in people that you supposed to believe in, like my lawyers. They’ve done a great job, even though it’s been a difficult time.”

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The 400-foot-tall ride had been closed since Sampson’s fall on March 24, 2022.

An investigation into the tragedy shows Sampson’s seat wasn’t properly secure because of the teen’s size, and manual changes were made to the seat’s sensor that made the ride unsafe.

“From the beginning, after there was so much confusion at the onset, we waited and we prayed about what could we do as parents and grandparents, because I can’t imagine if my son, our baby boy — he was turned away from a ride because of his weight, and we can’t even imagine we can’t begin to fathom what Nekia and Yarnell are going through. We can’t, and it was not a second thought for us to come out here in the hot sun with our bull horns, crying ‘Take this deathtrap down, take this deathtrap down,’” said Tina Wilson, founder of the Juneteenth Project Coalition. “We are Orange County residents. We are a tourist destination, not a death destination, and I tell you what, Tyre Sampson will not be remembered as just an individual that got on a ride and then all of these adrenaline junkies come here and say, ‘Oh, let’s get on that ride, someone died.’ Not today. Not in our county.”

The owners of the ride took a settlement with the state and agreed to pay a $250,000 fine.

Sampson’s family is also suing Funtime Thrill Rides, the manufacturer; Slingshot Group, the owner-operator of the ride, and ICON Park, which leased the space.

The settlement money will, in part, go toward providing scholarship opportunities for others to go college in Sampson’s memory, according to his father.

“Slingshot, ICON Park, we get together, we’ve come up with some dual scholarship opportunities, we can send some young men to college to help better (themselves), passing the law to prevent this situation ever happening again to any child, any adult in this case, and just being present in the community to let people know I’m here. Maybe they can learn from my testimony,” he said.

Lawmakers in Tallahassee are considering a bill to change the way attractions are regulated in Florida as a result of Sampson’s death.

“Senator Geraldine Thompson has become like family with Yarnell Sampson, and from day one when she met him, she said that, ‘We want to make sure that there’s some legacy, legislatively, for Tyre Sampson,’ and she made that commitment and she’s been pushing it. I mean, she has been so dedicated to saying, ‘This happened in our district and we have to make sure nothing like this ever happens again,’ so we applaud Sen. Thompson, and we think what she has proposed is a step in the right direction,” Crump said. “...We understand politics, we understand that there’s going to be some give and take, but she started the process and she’s been consulting with Mr. Sampson the whole time, and so we are cautiously optimistic that we’re going to make history by having this Tyre Sampson Law pass.”

[RELATED: Orlando FreeFall death one year later. Here’s where things stand]

Watch the event again in the media player below.

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About the Authors:

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.