July 6, 2022

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Teen who fell to his death at Florida amusement park was turned away from two other rides, his cousin says

Tyre Sampson fell Thursday from the Orlando FreeFall drop tower, which takes riders up 430 feet and then drops at speeds of up to 75 mph, according to ICON Park, where the incident happened.
Shay Johnson spoke with 14-year-old Sampson by phone just before he got on the FreeFall drop tower at the park, she told CNN affiliate Spectrum News 13.
Johnson dropped Sampson off at the park, she said, and he told her he wanted to ride the swing.
“I said ‘OK. Ride it twice and ride it for me, too,’ ” Johnson said.
“He called me back about seven minutes later. He said ‘They said I’m too big. I can’t ride,’ ” Johnson said in the interview with Spectrum News 13.
CNN has reached out to ride operator Slingshot Group to ask whether Sampson fit properly and whether he was denied boarding the other ride the group operates due to his size.
Johnson said she told Sampson to try another one, the SlingShot, but he was also told he was too big. He told her there was one more ride he was going to try.
“He called me he say, ‘They let me ride. I can ride. I can ride,’ ” she remembered him telling her before getting on the Orlando FreeFall.
“I didn’t know it would be my last time talking to him alive. He just wanted to ride and have a good time,” she said.
An accident report obtained by CNN said Sampson’s seat was locked when the ride landed.
“Harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped,” said the report filed by the operator with the fair rides division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Sampson came out of the seat when the magnets engaged to slow the ride during the descent, according to the report, which was based on ride employee witnesses and was obtained by CNN.
The report named three witnesses, all listed as employees.
Sampson’s father, Yarnell Sampson, also raised the question of his son’s size Friday, telling CNN: “My son was 6’5″ 340. So, he’s a big guy.”
The ride’s operations and maintenance manual, which has been posted online by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, indicates the maximum passenger weight is 130 kilograms (approximately 287 pounds).
“Be careful when seeing if large guests fit into the seats. Check that they fit within the contours of the seat and the bracket fits properly. If this is not so — Do not let this person ride,” the manual states.
It’s not clear whether Sampson fit the contours of the seat or if the bracket fit properly.
Video circulating on social media, purportedly of the ICON Park incident, shows a person falling from their seat about five seconds into the ride’s drop, perhaps about two-thirds of the way down, as the ride slowed as it approached the ground.
The FreeFall ride is closed for while the accident is being investigated.
On Tuesday, Slingshot Group said it had suspended another of its rides, the Slingshot.
“We are heartbroken by the loss of Tyre Sampson and absolutely devastated for his family and loved ones,” the group said in a statement.
“We have suspended the operations of the FreeFall ride and the Slingshot ride at Icon Park. We are fully cooperating with the authorities at the state and local levels who are investigating this tragic incident. We plan on providing additional information in the coming days, as we learn more,” the statement said.
ICON Park on Monday said it had demanded that Slingshot Group suspend them both “until such time as a thorough investigation by the appropriate authorities has been completed and all parties are satisfied that the rides are safe for the public.”