31 March 2022
ORLANDO — The teen who fell to his death last week from an amusement park ride in Florida said he was turned away from two other rides at the park because of his size, according to his cousin.
Tyre Sampson fell Thursday from the Orlando FreeFall drop tower, which takes riders up and then drops them nearly 400 feet at speeds that reach more than 75 mph, according to ICON Park, where the incident happened.
Shay Johnson spoke with 14-year-old Tyre by phone just before he got on the FreeFall drop tower at the park, she told CNN affiliate Spectrum News 13.
Johnson dropped Tyre off at the park, she said, and he told her he wanted to ride the swing. “I said ‘OK. Ride it twice, and ride it for me, too,'” Johnson said.
“He called me back about 7 minutes later. He said ‘They said I’m too big. I can’t ride,'” Johnson said in the interview with Spectrum News 13.
Tyre’s father, Yarnell Sampson, has also raised the question of his son’s size, telling CNN on Friday: “My son was 6’5,” 340. So, he’s a big guy.”
Johnson said she told Tyre to try another ride, the SlingShot, but he was also told he was too big. He told her there was one more ride he was going to try.
It was the Orlando FreeFall. “He called me he say, ‘They let me ride. I can ride. I can ride,'” she remembered him telling her before getting on it.
“I didn’t know it would be my last time talking to him alive. He just wanted to ride and have a good time,” she said.
The ride’s operations and maintenance manual, which has been posted online by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, indicates the maximum passenger weight is 130 kilograms (approximately 287 pounds).
“Be careful when seeing if large guests fit into the seats. Check that they fit within the contours of the seat and the bracket fits properly. If this is not so — Do not let this person ride,” the manual states.
CNN has reached out to ride operator Slingshot Group to ask whether Tyre fit properly and whether he was denied boarding the other ride the group operates due to his size.
Not clear if the seat fit the teen properly
Tyre’s seat was locked when the ride landed, an accident report obtained by CNN said.
“Harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped,” said the report filed by the operator with the fair rides division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Tyre came out of the seat when the magnets engaged to slow the ride during the descent, according to the report, which was based on ride employee witnesses and was obtained by CNN.
The report named three witnesses, all listed as employees.
It’s not clear whether Tyre fit the contours of the seat or if the bracket fit properly.
Video circulating on social media, purportedly of the ICON Park incident, shows a person falling from their seat about five seconds into the ride’s drop, perhaps about two-thirds of the way down, as the ride slowed as it approached the ground.
The FreeFall ride is closed while the accident is being investigated. And on Tuesday, Slingshot Group said it had suspended another of its rides, the SlingShot.
“We are heartbroken by the loss of Tyre Sampson and absolutely devastated for his family and loved ones,” the group said in a statement.
“We have suspended the operations of the FreeFall ride and the Slingshot ride at Icon Park. We are fully cooperating with the authorities at the state and local levels who are investigating this tragic incident. We plan on providing additional information in the coming days, as we learn more,” the statement said.
ICON Park on Monday said it had demanded that Slingshot Group suspend them both “until such time as a thorough investigation by the appropriate authorities has been completed and all parties are satisfied that the rides are safe for the public.”
The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.