14-year-old boy dies after falling from amusement park ride

Attorneys for Tyre Sampson's family said they “intend to get answers.”

March 26, 2022, 2:25 PM

A 14-year-old boy from Missouri fell to his death while on a new ride at an Orlando amusement park, authorities said.

The incident occurred Thursday shortly after 11 p.m. at ICON Park, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said. Deputies responded to a 911 call after the boy fell off the Orlando FreeFall, the world's tallest free-standing drop tower at a height of 430 feet, according to the park.

The teenager was transported to a local hospital where he died from his injuries, the sheriff's office said.

The boy, identified by authorities as Tyre Sampson, was visiting Orlando from Missouri with a friend's family, Orange County Sheriff John Mina told reporters during a briefing Friday afternoon.

Close up view of the Orlando Free Fall off of International Drive March 25, 2022, hours after a 14-year-old boy fell to his death from the ride, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The death is believed to be accidental at this stage in the investigation, based on videos and witness statements from "everyone involved," the sheriff said.

"Our role in this situation is to determine whether or not this is an accident or an intentional act and this does appear just to be a terrible tragedy," Mina said.

There are no criminal charges filed at this time, Mina said. "We'll see moving forward what [the investigation] results in," he said.

The sheriff said he did not have any reports of issues with the new attraction, but noted that further investigation into the ride's safety will be conducted by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.

An initial permit inspection of the ride on Dec. 20, 2021, found "no deficiencies," the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs said. The ride's next inspection would have been after six months of operation, it said.

A teenager died after falling from an amusement ride at ICON Park in Orlando, Fla., March 24, 2022.

A 4-minute video posted to social media captured the fatal fall, which occurred at the end of the ride's descent. Mina said the sheriff's office has viewed the video and flagged to have it taken down.

"Something that awful shouldn't be out there in the public," he said.

The Orlando FreeFall opened in late December, one of two new rides to debut at ICON Park. Up to 30 passengers at a time ride to the top of the tower, where they are tilted toward the ground before going into a nearly 400-foot free fall at over 75 mph.

The attraction will be closed until further notice amid the state's investigation.

"We are heartbroken with the incident that took the life of one of our guests," the ride's operator, SlingShot Group, said in a statement. "We extend our condolences and deepest sympathy to his family and friends. We are working with the Sheriff's Office and ride officials on a full investigation."

A teenager died after falling from an amusement ride at ICON Park in Orlando, Fla., March 24, 2022.

ICON Park said that it is also cooperating with authorities.

"A tragedy occurred last night at the Orlando FreeFall and our hearts are heavy with sadness," the park said in a statement.

The eighth grader was a star football player who was visiting the theme park with his team, attorneys for his parents said.

"This young man was the kind of son every parent hopes for -- an honor roll student, an aspiring athlete, and a kind-hearted person who cared about others," Ben Crump, an attorney for Tyre's father, Yarnell Sampson, said in a statement. "A fun theme park visit with his football team should not have ended in tragedy."

"Every parent who sees this horrific video can't help but think the same thing, 'That could have been my child,'" Bob Hilliard, an attorney for Tyre's mother, Nekia Dodd, said in a statement.

The two attorneys "intend to get answers" for the family, Crump said.

In 2020, another death occurred at ICON Park when an employee fell from the 450-foot-tall StarFlyer swing ride. A federal investigation found that 21-year-old Jacob David Kaminsky wasn't hooked up properly to the ride's safety device when he fell 225 feet while conducting a safety check, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

ABC News' Matt Foster, Will McDuffie, Alexander Puri and Mara Robles contributed to this report.