ORLANDO, Fla. - The family of Tyre Sampson, the teenager who died after falling from the Orlando FreeFall ride at ICON Park, came together Wednesday afternoon to celebrate his life on what would have been his 15th birthday. Yarnell Sampson, along with Attorney Ben Crump, sang happy birthday and released balloons in the sky, while chanting, "take it down," before gathering to say a prayer.
During the news conference, State Rep. Geraldine Thompson told reporters she plans to file the 'Tyre Sampson Law' on the first day of the legislative session, which is currently scheduled for March 2023. She said it would be the very first bill she drafts as a member of the Florida Senate.
FRAMEWORK FOR 'TYRE SAMPSON BILL'
In July, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried laid out a draft proposal of legislation she hopes will improve rider safety on amusement rides, following the teen's death. The framework of the bill includes an increase in signage posting requirements to be more comprehensive and would require safety sensors not be adjustable beyond maximum tolerance in manufacturer settings.
"The things that happened here were out of the ordinary." Thompson said. "Seats being adjusted after inspection after a permit – that was out of the ordinary. It was out of the ordinary that the young people who were operating the ride had not been properly trained, that was out of the ordinary. It was out of the ordinary that the signs with regard to height and weight requirements were not posted so that Tyre could make his own decision, that was out of the ordinary."
If lawmakers approve the legislation in session, it would go into effect on July 1, 2023. An attorney representing The Slingshot Group, the company that owns the ride that Sampson fell from, among other rides around the state, previously said it supports the proposed framework.
TYRE SAMPSON'S FATHER: ‘HIS LEGACY SHOULD BE A PERMANENT MEMORIAL HERE’
"I'm trying to give the proper respect to the dead. He deserved that because he didn't sign up to die. He signed up to ride a ride and have fun and it led up to something else," Yarnell Sampson said. "That was my only child. That was my everything, so I'm totally invested in this situation," he added, vowing he won't stop fighting for justice for his son until the ride is taken down.
ORLANDO FREEFALL DEATH INVESTIGATION
The 14-year-old St. Louis, Missouri, teen died March 24 after he fell out of the restraints while on the relatively new 430-foot drop tower attraction – billed as the world's tallest drop tower. Video of the incident was shared widely on social media. The teen was visiting Orlando on spring break with another family.
An autopsy conducted by the Orange County Medical Examiner concluded that the boy's cause of death was the result of blunt force trauma and the manner of death was "accident." It also revealed the 380-pound teen was almost 100 pounds over the ride's weight limit. Initial state findings determined that the operator of the ride made "manual adjustments" to the ride's harness proximity sensor on two of the seats, including the one Tyre Sampson was in, which falsely showed that he was secured in his seat and that the ride was safe to operate.
TYRE SAMPSON'S FAMILY FILES LAWSUIT
In April, the teen's parents, Yarnell Sampson and Nekia Dodd, filed a joint 65-page lawsuit against multiple businesses connected to the design, development, construction, and operation of the ride, shortly after it happened.
Among several allegations, the lawsuit alleged that operators failed to follow the ride's safety guidelines, failed to ensure Tyre Sampson was properly secured in the seat, failed to post warnings or train staff about height and/or weight restrictions, and failed to install "adequate restraint systems," such as a seatbelt.
The teen's family said they want accountability, saying the teen's death was preventable and want the ride permanently closed.
Orlando FreeFall has been closed since March. Its sister ride, Orlando Slingshot, has also been closed, though no incident occurred on that ride.