ORLANDO, Fla. - Lawyers representing the family of Tyre Sampson, the teen who fell off a drop tower ride at ICON Park in March and died, visited the amusement park Tuesday morning in Orlando, Florida to get their first look at the ride.
CONTINUING COVERAGE: Icon Park Death Investigation
Attorney Ben Crump, who represents Yarnell Sampson, Tyre's father, and Michael Haggard, who represents Tyre's mom, Nekia Dodd, were seen talking with various people – presumably inspectors – near the ride.
At one point, someone was seen measuring each of the seats, which along with size, weight restrictions, and restraints have become focal points of the investigation from outside experts, lawmakers, and officials into the teen's death.
"We are doing a thorough investigation into the tragic killing of this 14-year-old child who should have never been killed. We believe this was completely preventable," Crump told reporters in brief remarks.
Asked if there was anything that stood out to him during his investigation, Crump reiterated that he and his team were doing a thorough investigation and that they believed the teen's death was preventable.
"Other than George Floyd's tragic torture video, I think this is the worst tragedy captured on video that I've ever seen," he said. Crump walked to his car and did not answer any further questions.
"We have to find out how this never happens again," Haggard said.
Haggard pointed to the Drop Line ride at Dollywood in Tennessee, a drop tower-style ride that's slightly smaller than Orlando FreeFall, but made by the same manufacturer, FunTime Thrill Rides, as using seatbelts. That ride, however, does not tilt forward like FreeFall in Orlando.
Dollywood did close Drop Line out of an abundance of caution following the death here in Orlando.
Another issue investigators and attorneys are looking at is whether Sampson was too big for the ride and/or restraints.
His dad previously told FOX 35 that his son weighed 340 pounds, which would have exceeded the manufacture's recommended weight limit of 286 pounds. Haggard said Sampson weighed 360 pounds, while noting that there was no scale or signage at the ride.
"There’s a metal detector so you don’t bring your phone on, but there’s no sign about weight and there’s no scale," he said. "How that’s not so much more important than a metal detector for a ride is kind of amazing."
Sampson, who is from St. Louis, Missouri, was visiting Orlando with another family, as part of a football program, according to his dad. He and his friends went to ICON Park to ride the Orlando FreeFall, which opened in December 2021 and was billed as the world's tallest drop tower ride.
The ride takes people some 400 feet into the air, briefly tilts them forward, and then free falls at speeds up to 75 mph back down. As the ride was on its way down, the magnets engaged to presumably slow the fall, and Sampson fell off the ride and onto the ground. He died at the hospital, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
Tyre Sampson, 14, is pictured in a provided family photo.
Orlando FreeFall has been closed since March 24. Barricades have since been placed around the attraction while the investigation is conducted.
The ride is owned by The Slingshot Group, which also owns Orlando Slingshot at ICON Park, the Orlando Starflyer and other rides in Daytona, Panama, and Kissimmee. The Orlando Slingshot ride has also been temporarily closed since the FreeFall incident.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the state agency in charge of inspecting attractions and rides at smaller amusement parks around the state, is investigating what happened.
It's not known when the investigation will be completed. The agency has hired a forensic engineering firm to assist with the investigation.