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The family of the teen who died at a Florida amusement park files lawsuit

Tyre Sampson, a 14-year-old boy, died from injuries sustained after falling from an attraction called the FreeFall at Icon Park on March 24.
/ Source: TODAY

The family of Tyre Sampson, a 14-year-old boy who fell to his death at an Orlando-based amusement park last month, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit. 

In a statement regarding his client’s lawsuit, personal injury attorney Ben Crump accused the defendants in Sampson’s case of negligence in “a multitude of ways.”

“One of the most glaring examples was failing to provide a $22 seatbelt on a ride that cost several million dollars to construct,” Crump noted in his statement filed on Monday. “From the ride and seat manufacturers and the installer to the owners and operators, the defendants had more than enough chances to enact safeguards, such as seatbelts, that could have prevented Tyre’s death.”

Sampson, who lived in Missouri, was visiting Icon Park during a trip when the fatal incident occurred. According to authorities, the teen died from injuries sustained after falling from an attraction called the FreeFall, which holds up to 30 people on its ride. The attraction lifts passengers 430 feet in the air before plunging them back to the ground at nearly 70 miles per hour.

Video of the tragic accident captured by a bystander shows the moments in which Sampson boarded the ride and then later fell. In the footage, just as the ride takes off, an attendant is seen asking a passenger on the left side of the ride if they checked their seatbelt. Later, Sampson can be seen falling to the ground from the left side of the camera’s frame. 

Crump of Ben Crump Law and personal injury attorney Bob Hilliard of Hilliard Martinez Gonzales are representing the teen's father, Yarnell Sampson, and his mother, Nekia Dodd. The lawsuit was filed in the 9th Judicial Circuit Court in Orange County, Florida, on Monday.

The lawsuit, which names Icon Park and I Drive 360 Management Services as some of the defendants, outlines the events that led up to Sampson's death, including the fact that neither seat belts nor secondary restraints were used on FreeFall. It also highlights how the defendants in the case “improperly altered and manipulated” the sensors for the safety harness so the ride could function despite Sampson’s harness not being properly closed. Also under scrutiny is the absence of scales and clear weight limits at the site of the ride. Sampson, who weighed over 300 pounds, was allowed to go on the ride despite being well over the limit, which was set at 287 pounds in the FreeFall manufacturer manual. 

Defendants Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot LLC, which owns FreeFall, and Icon Park were not immediately available for comment on Monday, according to NBC News. In addition, NBC News affiliate WESH reported that the Funtime Handels GMBH and Gerstlauer Amusement Rides GMBH, the Austrian company which designed and manufactured the ride, which were also listed as defendants, could not be reached for comments. 

“This is a cascade of grossly negligent conduct by a full team of culpable and sophisticated defendants—all willing to sacrifice the simplest of safety measures to assure themselves the quickest and biggest payday possible,” Hilliard said in a statement. “How severely a Central Florida jury financially punishes these corporations for joining together and killing this young boy is the billion dollar question.” 

Sampson’s death is not a first for Icon Park. Two years ago, one of the park’s employees died after falling from the StarFlyer, a 450-foot spinning swing ride at the park.