Girl speaks out after seatbelt unbuckled on drop tower ride: 'Scared I was going to die'

A mother and daughter are speaking out to FOX 35 after a viral TikTok video showed that her seatbelt wasn't fastened on a drop tower ride. 

April Piper says that her 9-year-old daughter, Isabella Carmichael, was on a drop tower ride at the Greater Gulf State Fair in Alabama when she started to panic because her seatbelt wasn't fastened. Her shoulder harness was pulled down – however, the seatbelt that fastens to it was hanging loose. 

Isabella started screaming for help as the ride went up, and you could hear others screaming in the crowd below. Rider operators stopped the ride and slowly brought it back down, but it was a traumatic experience for Isabella.

"I thought they were going to go around and check it again, but then when I started going up," Isabella said. "I got scared I was going to die."

The ride she was on was similar to the one 14-year-old Tyre Sampson was on when he fell to his death at ICON Park in Orlando. 


Sampson died on March 24 after plunging to his death while riding the Orlando FreeFall drop tower ride. Video of the incident was shared widely on social media. The teen was visiting Orlando on spring break with another family from St. Louis, Missouri. The ride – which was relatively new at the time – was billed as the world's tallest drop tower. It has been closed ever since Tyre's death and Orlando Slingshot is set to tear it down. 

Sampson weighed nearly 100 pounds more than the maximum passenger weight for the 430-foot drop tower attraction and a report revealed the seat had been adjusted. The state is still investigating. 

Tyre Sampson's father, Yarnell Sampson, said seeing Isabella's story only continues his push for ride safety. 

"I’m happy that it’s not a tragic story. She gets a chance to fulfill her dreams and become whoever she wants to become as a young lady trying to become a young woman," said Yarnell Sampson.

Piper said she can't help but think of Sampson's family and what they had to go through. 

"I cannot imagine," said Piper. "Even experiencing this tiny fraction of what I have through her can't possibly compare to what his mama and his family is going through. It breaks my whole heart." 

Piper hopes the video of Isabella that's now gone viral on TikTok helps bring change to standards, procedures, and proper training for these rides. 

"We have to get this more heavily regulated federally," said Piper. "I’m not going to stop until we see change. There are a lot of families who have gone through this and who don’t have their babies come back home."