Teen Falls To His Death On Ride In Florida: A Timeline



Rebekah Flores, Publicist

March 2022

Teen Falls Off Free Fall Ride:

On the night of March 24, 2022, tragedy struck as 14-year-old Tyre Sampson passed away after falling off a ride at ICON Park in Orlando, Florida.

Around 11 p.m. that Thursday, deputies arrived at the Orlando Free Fall attraction at the park after receiving a 911 call regarding a teen who had fallen off the ride. Sampson was taken to Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children shortly after, where he succumbed to his injuries. John Mina, a sheriff from Orange County, reported that “absolutely no criminal charges” have been filed, however, the agency is looking into whether the incident was an accident or intentional.

Questions started to circulate after the incident, questioning how such a tragedy could have occurred. Mechanical error? Failure to comply with safety regulations? Investigations began soon after the incident had occurred and the ride, which had first opened last December, was consequentially closed in the meantime.

This fatal incident was not a first for the ICON park. In September of 2021, 21-year-old worker Jacob David Kaminsky fell to his death while conducting a safety inspection on the StarFlyer attraction. According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Kaminsky was “climbing the tower when he fell from about halfway up the 450-foot ride to the bottom platform.”

March-April 2022

Evidence From Investigations Arise

Things started to surface after the tragedy. A witness reported that “there were red flags before the ride even took off”. One person who was also on the ride questioned a ride employee about the restraints.

“Why doesn’t this have the little clicky click? The seatbelt,” she asked, regarding an additional seatbelt.

Another voice was also heard asking, “Hey, did you check your seat belt on the left side? Seat belt! Seat belt!”

After Sampson had fallen, the employees started questioning each other, asking if they checked his harness. They all claimed they had and that the light indicating the harness was in place was on. In spite of this, however, photos and videos from the incident showed that he was not fully buckled into the seat and his harness was set far above those of the other riders. Nevertheless, officials stated that the ride was “up to par” before the incident.

Woman Related To The Deceased Debunked (alongside multiple GoFundMe scams)

A 32-year-old woman who went by the name of “Shay Johnson” had made repeated claims that she was Sampson’s cousin during the week after his death. She was seen at multiple vigils and demonstrations demanding justice for her alleged cousin and gave multiple media interviews expressing heartache regarding the situation. She also went on to start a petition demanding the ride’s permanent closure.

Sampson’s family eventually debunked her words, claiming they had never met the woman at all. His mom told Florida authorities that no one in the family knew who “Shay Johnson” was and authorities later confirmed her real identity was Lewishena Browning. Her story has given her quite the attention within the media, however, her claims didn’t seem to have brought much financial profit.

Browning was not the only one to try and take advantage of the situation. According to Fox 35, several accounts claiming to be raising money to help Sampson’s family had been taken down from GoFundMe after it’d been discovered that they were actually scammers trying to defraud people trying to help.

More Factors Arise

On April 18, 2022, Nikki Fried, commissioner of the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, stated that a forensic engineering firm had determined that manual adjustments had been made to the ride, “resulting in it being unsafe”, according to NBC News.

“Manual adjustments had been made to the sensor for the seat in question that allowed the harness-to-restraint opening to be almost double that of the normal restraint-opening range,” Fried stated at a news conference. “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”.

A field report also showed the tightening of screws as well as the loosening and movement of sensors to a new location on his ride seat. It also was reported that out of the 30 seats on the ride, 27 of them showed an average restraint opening of 3.33 inches while the opening on Sampson’s seat was 7.19 inches and two other seats were found to have an opening of over 6.5 inches. “The effective restraint opening will expand by several inches when forced,” it stated. “During our investigation, two individuals were positioned in a seat with an opening ranging from 6 to 10 inches. Both individuals were able to slip through the restraint opening without any assistance. The individuals were 6’3 to 6’5 tall and weighed between 200 and 300 pounds.” The report did not reveal when the sensors were moved  — other than it happened after they were initially put in place — nor who moved them or why.

“The cause of the subject accident was that Tyre Sampson was not properly secured in the seat primarily due to misadjustment of the harness proximity sensor,” the report reads.

Report Says Full Review Of Ride Should Be Conducted

In spite of passing a previous inspection in December 2021 with zero deficiencies, due to the tragedy that occurred, the report noted that a full review “of the ride’s design, safety, operation, restraint mechanisms, and history” should be conducted.

“Now that investigators know more of what took place, they will next seek to find out how and why, before they assess what penalties may come”, stated Fried.

The ride has been closed since the accident and is stated to remain closed “indefinitely”, according to Fried.

A Lawsuit Is Already Under Way

As of Monday, April 25, Sampson’s parents have filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit, accusing ICON Park of the negligence of their son.

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

Teen dies after fall from drop tower ride at Orlando's ICON PARK, authorities say

Sampson’s parents have claimed that their son would still be alive if the ride had contained proper seatbelts on the FreeFall ride as well as signs posted that would’ve kept him from going on the ride at all due to his weight (the maximum weight limit on that ride was 287 pounds; Sampson weighed around 380, according to the lawsuit).

Dodd has said that she hopes filing this lawsuit would prevent occasions like this from happening again.

“I want the ride gone. Gone. Because it shouldn’t have taken a child, or anyone, to lose their life to put laws in place,” she said. “It could have been prevented.”