Family of teen killed in Florida amusement park after falling off ride files wrong death lawsuit

Lawyers for the family of Tyre Sampson allege the defendants did not warn Sampson of the Orlando Free Fall’s height and weight restrictions or provide a proper restraint system

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The family of a 14-year-old boy who plunged to his death from a Florida amusement park ride last month has filed a wrong death lawsuit against the park, ride operator and manufacturer. 

Tyre Sampson died March 24 after falling from the Free Fall ride at ICON Park in Orlando. The 65-page lawsuit filed in Orange County's 9th Judicial Circuit Court names his parents, Yarnell Sampson and Nekia Dodd, as the plaintiffs. 

The defendants are Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot, which owns the Free Fall, and amusement park. Also named are Funtime Handels GMBH and Gerstlauer Amusement Rides GMBH, a Germany-based company that designs and makes amusement park rides. 

In a statement, Orlando Slingshot said it was cooperating with investigators.

ORLANDO FREEFALL: FLORIDA LAWMAKER CALLS FOR 'LOOPHOLE' IN LAW TO BE CLOSED AFTER TEENAGER DIED ON RIDE

The Orlando Free Fall drop tower in ICON Park in Orlando, Florida, is pictured on March 28, 2022. Tyre Sampson, 14, was killed when he fell from the ride last week.

The Orlando Free Fall drop tower in ICON Park in Orlando, Florida, is pictured on March 28, 2022. Tyre Sampson, 14, was killed when he fell from the ride last week. (Orlando Sentinel via Getty)

"We reiterate that all protocols, procedures and safety measures provided by the manufacturer of the ride were followed," the statement said. "We look forward to working with the Florida legislature to implement change in the industry and we are also supportive of ... the ‘Tyre Sampson Bill’ to prevent a tragic accident like this from ever happening again."

The lawsuit said Sampson was an honor student and football player whose life was unnecessarily cut short because of negligence.  

"ICON DEFENDANTS owed a duty to its customers, including Plaintiffs’ decedent, TYRE SAMPSON, to exercise reasonable care in operating, managing, maintaining, designing, inspecting, constructing, testing, fixing, and/or controlling the amusement park rides located on its premises, including the subject Free Fall amusement park ride," it said.

The companies allegedly failed to warn Sampson of the Free Fall's height and weight restrictions and train its employees on how to operate it. The lawsuit also accused them of failing to provide a proper restraint system. 

Sampson's father said that his son could tell something didn't feel right moments before he died.

"When the ride took off, that's when he was feeling uncomfortable. He was like, ‘This thing is moving.’ … That's when he started freaking out," Yarnell Sampson told FOX 35 Orlando. "He was explaining to his friends next to him … ‘If I don’t make it down … please tell my mom and dad I love them.' For him to say something like that, he must've felt something."

Installing seatbelts would have cost about $22 per seat, totaling $660 for the entire ride, said attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the family.

The family of Tyre Sampson, 14, has filed a wrong death lawsuit against the Florida amusement park where he fell to his death while on a ride.

The family of Tyre Sampson, 14, has filed a wrong death lawsuit against the Florida amusement park where he fell to his death while on a ride. (FOX 35 Orlando)

"The defendants in Tyre’s case showed negligence in a multitude of ways," Crump said in a statement. "One of the most glaring examples was failing to provide a $22 seatbelt on a ride that cost several million dollars to construct. From the ride and seat manufacturers and the installer to the owners and operators, the defendants had more than enough chances to enact safeguards, such as seatbelts, that could have prevented Tyre’s death."

"They didn’t, and their poor decisions resulted in deadly consequences for a promising young man and lifelong pain for his family," he added. "We will hold these defendants accountable for their failures so that a tragedy like this never has to happen again."

A report commissioned by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services concluded that Sampson was not properly secured in his seat due to modifications. Nikki Fried, the agency's commissioner, said during a press conference that the maladjustments made to the seat's proximity sensor allowed the safety light to aluminate, allowing Sampson to ride even though he was not "properly secured in the seat."

"These maladjustments 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," Fried said. "The report confirms that manual adjustments had been made to the sensor for the seat in question that allowed the harness' restraint opening to be almost double that of the normal restraints opening range."

Tyree Sampson and Yarnell Sampson

Tyree Sampson and Yarnell Sampson (FOX 35 Orlando)

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The agency formally closed the ride the day after Sampson died. 

Fox News' Adam Sabes contributed to this report.