Orlando’s ICON Park free-fall ride remains closed as investigators continue to look for answers surrounding the death of 14-year old Tyre Sampson.
“The focus of our investigation is going to be on the training of the staff on the ground, who may not have secured Tyre before the ride took off,” said Bob Hilliard, the attorney for the Sampson family.
Investigators have not determined what caused Sampson to fall out of the ride, but in a horribly disturbing viral video that shows Sampson plunging to his death, workers can be heard in the moments after discussing safety measures.
Now, as more people show up daily to pay their respects to the Missouri teen who died, the number of signatures on a petition to shut the ride down for good continues to grow.
“My cousin lost his life over this ride. I don’t feel like it was safe. I feel like it needs to be shut down before someone else’s family has to go through what we are going through,” 14-year-old Tyre Sampson’s cousin told FOX 35 Orlando.
Investigators continue to examine what happened on the night of Mar. 24 when Sampson, on a spring break trip, dropped out of his seat from the 430-foot, free-fall amusement park ride that is taller than the Statue of Liberty along a busy street in the heart of Orlando’s tourist district not far from Disney World.
Lawyers for his family want to know if negligence about his size, or other factors, played a role.
“This young man, he was athletic, and he was big. He had no way of knowing,” said Hilliard in an interview. “This is going to be an issue of a lack of supervision and lack of training. A straight-up negligence case.”
Tyre was part of a group called the St. Louis Bad Boyz football club who were in Orlando for a week-long training camp, the Post-Dispatch reported. The group had chaperones and, by all accounts, were doing what millions do every year during spring break in Orlando: enjoying the theme parks and rides.
“The investigation is also going to include the design of the ride itself. There absolutely should be no way a ride can leave the ground if there is any indication that any one of the passengers is not secured,” Hilliard said.
The company that operates the ride said workers are responsible for checking the lights on the restraint system to ensure they are properly secured.
“The ride will not ascend unless those harnesses are locked in. There were no indications there was anything different,” said John Stine with Slingshot Group.
“It felt like a dream,” said one witness Montrey Williams
Williams said he was standing in front of the ride the night of the teen’s death and noticed the red flags.
“Nobody walked around to see if everybody was securely, you know, locked in,” he said.
“There has to be redundancies, more than a 16-year-old minimum wage kid walking around checking whether or not your harness works,” said Hilliard.
Tyre was a giant for his age, already the size of an NFL offensive lineman. His family says he aspired to play pro football, like many kids with athletic ability who see a way to buy their mother a house and lift everyone in the family to a new level.
“That was his dream, and he was on his way,” Wendy Wooten, his stepmother, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He had so many scouts looking at him. He was going to be a great football player.”
The ride passed a safety inspection in December before it was allowed to open, according to a safety inspection report.