THE parents of Tyre Sampson, a teenager who fell to his death from the Free Fall ride at Icon Park last month, are expected to file a lawsuit Monday.
Tyre’s family will be suing the owner, manufacturer and builder of the ride for negligence. A news conference is planned for Tuesday to discuss the lawsuit.
The family also believes the thrill ride should be permanently shut down and dismantled.
Tyre, 14, had visited Icon Park in Orlando from Missouri with friends on spring break. He boarded the ride and was sent over 400 feet in the air when he fell from his seat.
He was pronounced dead from traumatic injuries.
The news comes after a report unveiled by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried found that an operator of the thrill ride made manual adjustments to a sensor, resulting in the ride being unsafe.
“This report confirmed that manual adjustments had been made to the sensor [of] the seat in question that allowed the harness-to-restraint opening to be almost double that of the normal restraint opening range,” Fried said in a Monday news conference.
Fried added that the improper adjustments allowed the safety lights in Tyre’s seat to illuminate, allowing the ride to operate despite the teen not being properly secured in his seat.
According to the new report, other contributing factors might have played a role in the tragedy. An investigation is still ongoing, said Fried.
The drop tower will remain closed indefinitely.
State Representative Geraldine Thompson stated that thrill rides at the park go through a routine inspection, meaning that since the adjustments were made to the ride, an inspection should have followed.
The investigation is attempting to determine if those inspections were made.
Thompson told reporters that she is working on a “Tyre Sampson” bill to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
Tyre stood 6-feet, 5-inches tall and weighed over 300 pounds, according to a lawyer representing his family.
In the maintenance manual for the thrill ride, the “maximum passenger weight” and size restrictions are outlined as being 130kg or roughly 287 pounds.
Trevor Arnold, an attorney representing the Slingshot Group, which operates the ride, said that the organization is fully cooperating with the investigation.
“All protocols, procedures and safety measures provided to us by the manufacturer of the ride were followed,” Arnold wrote in a statement at the time.
“Today’s report suggests a full review of the ride’s design, safety, operation, restraint mechanisms and history – which of course we welcome.
“We look forward to working with the Florida legislature to implement change in the industry, as the safety of our patrons is always our top priority.”
In another statement, a spokesperson for ICON Park said: “We are deeply troubled that the preliminary findings of the State’s investigation indicate a sensor on the Orlando FreeFall attraction, which is owned and operated by the SlingShot Group, had been mis-adjusted after the sensor was originally secured in place.
“ICON Park is committed to providing a safe, fun experience for families. We will continue to support the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services with their ongoing investigation.”
‘KNEW SOMETHING WAS WRONG’
Tyre’s dad said his son knew his safety harness was not fitted right.
Yarnell Sampson told Fox News that his son began to panic when the ride took off and knew his restraint bar was moving.
Yarnell added: “That’s when he started freaking out. And he was explaining to his friends, next to him, ‘I don’t know man, if I don’t make it down, safely, can you please tell my mamma and daddy that I love them.’
“For him to say something like that, he must have felt something.”
Yarnell said other attractions refused to let him on because he was too big, but Free Fall operators had allowed him to ride.
He added: “This particular ride decided ‘yeah, we can take you, get on,’ when nobody else would allow him to get on the rides.”
An accident report, obtained by CNN, revealed that Tyre’s harness was still locked when the ride came to a halt.
It stated: “Harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped.”
It comes after chilling 911 calls from ICON Park claimed staff failed to properly secure the teenager’s seatbelt, The US Sun revealed.
RIDE WORKER JOKES ABOUT SEAT BELTS
A ride worker was seen joking about seat belts and safety just moments before Tyre fell.
A bystander recorded the interactions between the ride’s operators and riders who were on the attraction when the tragedy happened.
As they were getting on the ride, nervous riders are seen asking about seat belts.
“Why doesn’t this have the little clicky click? Like the seat belt?” asked one of the riders.
“You talking about a seat belt?” one of the ride workers replied.
As the ride begins, one of the operators asked: “Have you checked your seat belt? On the left side. Seat belt?”
“Nope,” someone is heard replying.
The video shows both the before and after of the tragedy, as well as the fall.
Following the horror plunge, a woman asked for an ambulance, and people were heard screaming, demanding to be let off the ride.
Crew members were seen gathering in shock, as one of them asked: “Are you sure you checked him?”
A spokesperson for the Slingshot Group of Companies, which owns the ride, confirmed the teenager was in a safety harness, adding that staff “operate the ride with all the safety precaution in mind.”
ICON Park released a statement the day after Tyre’s death: “A tragedy occurred last night at the Orlando FreeFall and our hearts are heavy with sadness.
“The owner of the attraction is fully cooperating with authorities and ICON Park is doing everything we can to assist.
“The Orlando FreeFall will be closed pending a full investigation. Other businesses at ICON Park are scheduled to be open during their normal business hours.”
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