Parents of Teen Who Died in Amusement Park Fall Reach Settlement in Wrongful Death Lawsuit
A year after 14-year-old Tyre Sampson fell to his death from a drop-tower ride, ICON Park in Orlando has begun removing the attraction. The Missouri teen's mother, Nekia Dodd, visited the park on Wednesday to announce that she reached a settlement with ICON Park and the ride's owners. Dodd and her attorneys asked Florida officials to make sure rides that are taller than 100 feet have seatbelts and harnesses.
"My son took his last breath on this ride, so it's heartbreaking, it's devastating, it's a feeling I hope no other parent will ever have to go through after this ride comes down," Dodd said during the press conference, reports Fox35 Orlando. "When he passed, I wasn't there for him." Dodd broke into tears, adding that she hopes there are no remains of the ride after its demolition.
Orlando Slingshot, which owns the ride, announced plans to remove it from ICON Park in October. The ride sat on land Orlando Slingshot leased from the theme park on Orlando's International Drive. A state investigation found Sampson slipped through the restraints as the ride came down because his harness was manually adjusted to account for his size. Florida officials fined Orlando Slingshot $250,000.
"The report confirmed the manual adjustments had been made to the sensor of the seat in question that allowed the harness of the restrained opening to be almost double that of the normal restraint opening range," Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried explained in a news conference in April 2022. "These mids-adjustments allowed the safety lights to illuminate, improperly satisfying the rides' electronic safety mechanisms that allowed the ride to operate even though Mr. Sampson was not properly restrained in his seat."
Demolition finally began on Monday, with parts of the ride being dismantled, Fox35 reports. "While the FreeFall ride is not owned and was not controlled or operated by ICON Park, because it is a tenant on the property, we agree with the owner's decision to dismantle the ride and our hearts are with the family as they witness this important milestone," ICON said in a statement this week.
Sampson died on March 24, 2022. Dodd and Sampson's father, Yarnell Sampson, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against ICON, Slingshot, and ride manufacturers Fun Time Thrill Rides and Gerstlauer Amusement Rides. Terms of the settlement were not released.
Sampson's parents called for the ride to be taken down and a memorial for their son to be added. "How would you feel? You send your kid to vacation, they're going to have fun. Next thing you know, they don't come home," Yarnell told WESH in October 2022. "This is a reminder. It needs to come down. It needs a permanent memorial."