Teenager’s death at Florida amusement park after falling off ride ‘could have been prevented’, family says

ORLANDO, Fla. — The family of a teenager who died after falling off a ride at an amusement park in Florida told Good Morning America that his death could have been prevented.

“It could have been prevented… it had to have been prevented,” Nekia Dodd, mother of Tyre Sampson, told GMA. “So, as an operator, you have a job to check those rides, you know. The video I saw was not made. And if it was done, it must have been done more than once, you know.”

Sampson, 14, died after falling off a ride at ICON Park in Orlando on March 24. His parents filed a civil lawsuit for misconduct on Monday.

MORE: Family sues after teen falls to death during amusement park ride

Dodd and Tyra Sampson’s father, Yarnell Sampson, filed a lawsuit in the 9th Circuit Court in Orange County, Florida, accusing ICON Park in Orlando and other defendants, including the manufacturer and operator of the FreeFall ride, of negligence.

A makeshift monument to Tyre Sampson outside the Orlando Freefall ride at ICON Park on April 20, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. Sampson, a teenager visiting from Missouri for spring break, fell to his death during the trip. (Phelan M. Ebenhak via AP)

“Tyre had a long and prosperous life ahead of him, which was interrupted by this tragic event,” the lawsuit says.

“Orlando Slingshot continues to cooperate fully with the state during the investigation, and we will continue to do so until it is officially closed,” Trevor Arnold, Orlando Slingshot’s attorney, said in a statement to ABC News. “We confirm that all protocols, procedures and safety measures provided by the ride manufacturer have been followed. We look forward to working with the Florida Legislature to bring about change in the industry, and we also support the visions outlined by State Representative Geraldine Thompson. amend state law through the Sampson Tire Act to prevent such tragic accidents from happening again.”

Last week, officials cited operator error as the main suspected cause of death for Sampson, who slid out of his seat during a tower ride and fell over 100 feet onto the pavement.

SEE ALSO: Who regulates amusement parks? Issues raised after boy falls off ICON Park ride and dies

In a preliminary report released by investigators, a forensic engineering firm hired by the state of Florida found that Sampson “was not properly secured in the seat” and the safety sensor was “manually adjusted,” which increased the gap between the harness and the seatbelt. seat.

According to the report, an eyewitness video of the incident shows that the gap in Sampson’s seat was between 6 and 7 inches, which is larger than the other seat holding hole, which was 3.3 inches.

As the ride went down, the handlebars could open more, up to 11 inches, and investigators said Sampson “slid through the gap between the seat and the harness” as the ride slowed. His harness was still down when the ride stopped.

Sampson’s family said he would have been alive if the FreeFall ride had had his seat belt fastened.

Nekia Dodd 02 Abc Jt

This still from the video, Nekia Dodd, mother of Tyre Sampson, who died in an accident at an amusement park in Orlando last month, is shown during an interview with GMA.

They also argued that there were no signs near or on the ride that had a maximum passenger weight of about 287 pounds, indicating size restrictions, and Sampson should not have been allowed to ride due to his size. According to the lawsuit, he weighed 380 pounds.

Dodd told GMA she hopes filing a lawsuit will prevent a similar event from happening again.

“I want the trip to stop. Gone. Because a child or anyone else didn’t have to lose their life to put the laws in place,” she said. “It could have been prevented.”

On Tuesday, Sampson’s parents will hold a press conference with their lawyers to discuss the lawsuit.

The FreeFall ride remains closed pending a full investigation.

Bill Hutchinson of ABC News contributed to this report.

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