Florida teen's amusement park death after fall from ride 'could've been prevented,' family says

ByLinsey Davis, Douglas Lantz and William Mansell via GMA via ABCNews logo
Tuesday, April 26, 2022
FL teen's amusement park death 'could've been prevented,' family says
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The family of the teenager who died after falling from an amusement park ride in Florida told "Good Morning America" that his death was preventable.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The family of the teenager who died after falling from an amusement park ride in Florida told "Good Morning America" that his death was preventable.

"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."

Sampson, 14, died after falling from a ride at ICON Park in Orlando on March 24. His parents filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit on Monday.

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

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

A makeshift memorial for Tyre Sampson is viewed outside the Orlando Free Fall ride at the ICON Park entertainment complex, on April 20, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Sampson, a teenager visiting from Missouri on spring break, fell to his death while on the ride. (Phelan M. Ebenhack via AP)

"Tyre had a long and prosperous life in front of him that was cut short by this tragic event," the lawsuit states.

"Orlando Slingshot continues to fully cooperate with the State during its investigation, and we will continue to do so until it has officially concluded," Trevor Arnold, attorney for Orlando Slingshot, said in a statement to ABC News. "We reiterate that all protocols, procedures and safety measures provided by the manufacturer of the ride were followed. We look forward to working with the Florida legislature to implement change in the industry and we are also supportive of the concepts outlined by State Representative Geraldine Thompson to make changes to state law through the 'Tyre Sampson Bill' to prevent a tragic accident like this from ever happening again."

Last week, officials listed operator error as the primary suspected cause in the death of Sampson, who slipped out of his seat on a drop-tower ride and fell more than 100 feet to the pavement.

SEE ALSO: Who regulates amusement parks? Questions raised after boy falls from ICON Park ride, 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 a safety sensor has been "manually adjusted," increasing the gap between the restraint harness and the seat.

According to the report, a bystander video of the incident shows the gap in Sampson's seat was between 6 and 7 inches, more than the restraint opening for other seats, which was 3.3 inches.

When the ride dropped, the bar could opened up more, up to 11 inches, and investigators said Sampson "slipped through the gap between the seat and the harness" as the ride slowed down. His harness was still in the down position when the ride came to a stop.

Sampson's family said he would still be alive if there had been a seatbelt on the FreeFall ride.

In this screen grab from video, Nekia Dodd, the mother of Tyre Sampson who was killed in an Orlando amusement park accident last month is shown during an interview with GMA.

They also claimed there were no signs near or on the ride, which has a maximum passenger weight of about 287 pounds, indicating size restrictions and Sampson should not have been allowed to go on the ride because of his size. He was 380 pounds, according to the lawsuit.

Dodd told "GMA" she hopes filing the lawsuit will prevent such an event 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."

Sampson's parents are scheduled to hold a news conference with their attorneys Tuesday to discuss the legal action.

The FreeFall ride remains closed pending a full investigation.

ABC News' Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.