Orlando FreeFall death: Autopsy reveals Tyre Sampson nearly 100 pounds over ride's limit
ORLANDO, Fla. - An autopsy conducted by the Orange County Medical Examiner on Tyre Sampson, the 14-year-old who fell off the Orlando FreeFall ride in March, concludes that the boy's cause of death was the result of blunt force trauma and the manner of death was "accident."
The report, released to FOX 35 on Monday, also reveals that Sampson weighed nearly 100 pounds more than the maximum passenger weight for the 430-foot drop tower attraction at Orlando's ICON Park.
"The body is that of well-developed, obese, 74 inch, 383 pound, black male, appearing older than the reported age of 14 years," the medical examiner's reports state. The report details multiple internal and external abrasions, lacerations, and fractures.
"He was 387 pounds and that’s 97 pounds more than what the maximum requirement was. So he never should have been on that ride. He should have been able to attend his 8th-grade graduation last week," said Kim Wald, an attorney with The Haggard Law Firm. "This is just one more piece of the puzzle moving forward for us in the case."
Sampson was visiting Orlando from Missouri during a spring break trip with fellow athletes. According to the report, Sampson went on the ride with one of his football friends. At the top, his friend "became nervous and closed his eyes" until the ride came down. By that point, Sampson had already fallen off the ride to the ground below. He was taken to the hospital where he died.
RELATED: Orlando FreeFall ride death: Video shows Tyre Sampson in seat moments before falling
Early in its investigation into Sampson's death, the state indicated that he may not have been adequately restrained on the ride because of his size.
FOX 35 has learned that weight has played a part in other amusement ride accidents dating back more than 20 years. One ride expert told FOX 35 there’s a loophole in posting size restrictions - that if the manufacturer doesn’t require it, the operator doesn’t have to display it.
According to the ride manual for the Orlando Free Fall, the maximum passenger weight is 287 pounds.
A state-ordered investigation by Quest Engineering, a forensics firm, concluded that the ride's operators manually altered two of the harness proximity sensors on two of the seats to accommodate larger guests.
"These misadjustments allowed the safety lights to illuminate – improperly satisfying the ride's electronic safety mechanisms -- that allowed the ride to operate even though Mr. Sampson was not properly secured in the seat," said Nikki Fried, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, whose agency inspects rides at smaller amusement parks.
The report concluded that there were multiple other contributing factors that led to Sampson's death. It also concluded that the ride itself did not experience an electrical or mechanical failure.
Tyre's parents – Yarnell Sampson and Nekia Dodd – filed a wrongful death lawsuit against ICON Park, Orlando FreeFall, The Slingshot Group, the manufacturer of the ride, and the construction company that built it.
"He was a go-getter. For him not to be here, it's devastating. He was on his way. He was going to be known, but not like this," she said.
Yarnell Sampson told reporters that he learned of his son's death by watching the video as it was being rapidly shared on social media, though he did not know the first time he watched it that it was his son who fell.
"I was sick when I first seen it," he said.
"It makes me numb and helpless because I wasn't there to protect my son. But I'm here now to speak up for my son," he said.
Dodd also said that she wants the ride to be taken down.
The ride has been shut down since Sampson's death pending multiple investigations. The ride's owner, The Slingshot Group, owns Orlando Slingshot, which also opened in December 2021 at ICON Park, Orlando Starflyer, and other slingshot-style rides around Florida.