The mother of a 14-year-old boy who died on an amusement park ride in Orlando, Florida, last year made her first visit to the site, calling it a "bittersweet" moment as crews worked to disassemble the FreeFall ride.
Nekia Dodd, the mother of Tyre Sampson, shared her reaction as she saw the ride up close for the first time during a press conference on March 15.
"It’s breathtaking and not in a good way," Dodd said. "My son took his last breath on this ride so it’s heartbreaking and devastating. It’s a feeling I hope no parent will ever go through after this ride comes down."
Tyre tragically fell to his death from the 430-foot FreeFall ride at Orlando's ICON Park on March 24, 2022. The 14-year-old slipped through a gap between the harness and the seat after the ride's operator allegedly changed sensors on a pair of seats that left Tyre "not properly secured," according to a report released in April 2022 by an independent engineering firm hired by the state.
Construction crews started working to dismantle the ride earlier this week, which will eventually be completely taken down.
"It’s a bittersweet moment," Dodd said. "You know the ride is coming down, I’m thankful for that, but my son’s not coming back."
ICON Park said in a March 7 statement to NBC affiliate WESH it was supportive of the owner of the ride's decision to dismantle the tower, and that it was "pleased the process has begun."
Just over a month after Tyre's death, his family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the park, the owner of the FreeFall and the Austrian manufacturer of the ride, Funtime.
Michael Haggard, an attorney for Dodd, announced during the press conference a settlement had been reached with the owner of the ride, Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot, as well as ICON Park, which was leasing the property for the ride to operate, WESH reported. Haggard did not specify the amount of the settlement.
Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot said in a statement to WESH it was "pleased that a settlement has been reached."
"We also continue to support Sen. Thompson in her efforts to make the 'Tyre Sampson bill' state law," the company said through an attorney.
A representative for ICON Park told WESH: "With the utmost respect to the family, we defer any questions on this matter to the family."
Haggard emphasized the lawsuit is still going through the legal system, as the family is still suing Funtime, the foreign company that manufactured the ride.
“The case is not over. This death trap was made by Funtime, which resides out of Austria," Haggard said. "They have tried to evade responsibility and please remember it was the manufacturer that said you don’t need seat belts."
He added discussions are ongoing with ICON Park to build a memorial for Tyre near the attraction.
Dodd said she plans to use the funds from the settlement with ICON Park and Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot to start a foundation in her son’s name.
"Mainly, it will be to keep my son’s legacy alive, and give back to the community, to support our area and schooling and things of that nature," Dodd said.