Father of 14-year-old boy who fatally fell from Orlando FreeFall thrill ride to speak at ICON Park
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The father of the teen who fatally fell from the Orlando FreeFall attraction last month will speak from ICON Park Tuesday in Orlando.
Tire Sampson, 14, was visiting Orlando from Missouri for spring break when he died. Yarnell Sampson, the boy’s father, will be joined by attorneys Ben Crump and Bob Hilliard for a 2 pm news conference.
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A lawsuit filed Monday alleges the ride’s operators should have known that riders could be “subject to unreasonably dangerous and foreseeable risks, and that serious injury and death of the occupants in the ride could result.”
Sampson told NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday the family is dealing with the boy’s death “day-by-day, second-by-second, minute-by-minute.” He said he hopes legal action can create change in the industry so no other parent suffers.
Attorneys for Sampson’s family said legal action was likely after an independent forensic engineering firm hired in the investigation into Sampson’s death found the operator of the thrill ride manually adjusted the sensors in the seat he was in, which made the ride unsafe.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried announced Quest Engineering & Failure Analysis’ findings nearly one month after the boy’s death. The firm’s 14-page report determined the ride itself did not have an electrical or mechanical failure but a manual adjustment in the seat he was in allowed the ride to operate even when it was unsafe.
[RELATED: View full coverage of the Orlando FreeFall investigation]
Fried said the operator of the Orlando FreeFall made “manual adjustments to the ride resulting in it being unsafe” and allowed the harness’ restraint opening to be “almost double” of the normal opening range. The report shows the harness sensor of the seat Sampson was in was “manually loosened, adjusted, and tightened to allow a restraint opening of near 7 inches.”
The attorney for the company that operates the ride, Orlando Slingshot, released a statement about the lawsuit. It reads:
“Orlando Slingshot continues to fully cooperate with the State during its investigation, and we will continue to do so until it has officially concluded. We reiterate that all protocols, procedures and safety measures provided by the manufacturer of the ride were followed. We look forward to working with the Florida legislature to implement change in the industry and we are also supportive of the concepts outlined by State Representative Geraldine Thompson to make changes to state law through the ‘Tyre Sampson Bill’ to prevent a tragic accident like this from ever happening again.”
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