‘Tell my mom and daddy I love them’: Teen who fell from Florida ride was ‘freaking out’ before death

Warning: Graphic Images

A 14-year-old boy plummeted to his death Thursday at an Orlando amusement park moments after “he started freaking out.”

Tyre Sampson, 14, was visiting ICON Park in Orlando, FL on a trip away from his home in St. Louis, MO. The 6′ 5″, 340-pound football player was traveling with a friend’s family when the incident occurred.

Sampson’s father, Yarnell, recounted to Fox 35 how his son’s friends described the incident.

“This one particular ride said, ‘We can take you, come on! Get on!'” Sampson explained. “No one else allowed him to get on this ride, so I’m wondering what happened between now and then that made them say, ‘Come on, get this ride!'”

**WARNING: Graphic Video**

“He was panicking when he was going up. When the ride took off, that’s when he was feeling uncomfortable. He was like, ‘What’s going on?'” Sampson went on to detail what his son’s two best friends reported back. “That’s when he started freaking out, and he was explaining to his friend next to him, ‘I don’t know man. If I don’t make it down, please tell my Mom and Daddy I love them.'”

“For him to say something like that, he must have felt something,” Sampson concluded.

The “Orlando FreeFall” ride was still relatively new, having only opened to the public in December 2021. ICON park describes the ride as the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower at 430 feet. Permitting 30 passengers, the ride slowly ascends before tilting the seated riders outward to begin a descent at speeds up to 75 miles per hour.

The ride at ICON park, and all similar rides at sister parks, will remain closed until an investigation has been completed. The investigation falls under the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs and officials noted the safety measures prohibit the ride from commencing without the over-the-shoulder restraint completely engaged.

In the moments after the boy’s fall, attendants at the park were overheard verifying to one another that the safety measures had been followed and the system had signaled it was safe to proceed.

“He was an honor roll student. The young man had a bright future,” Sampson said of what might have come for his son who dreamed of a career in the NFL. “Last season, they had a good football season. Went to nationals. Could have been a recruiting trip – wasn’t sure? It was something in that nature.”

“He was a team player,” the father went on. “He was the type of young man that’d take the shirt off his back and give it to you.”

Orange County Sheriff John Mina stated, “Based on all of our preliminary investigation information, it appears to be a terrible tragedy, but our investigation is still open.” The investigation will determine whether there was criminal negligence and if charges need to be filed, but the sheriff conveyed all early indicators suggest there was no intent.

A statement from the SlingShot Group which operates the ride read: “We are heartbroken with the incident that took the life of one of our guests. We extend our condolences and deepest sympathy to his family and friends. We are working with the Sheriff’s Office and ride officials on a full investigation. The Orlando FreeFall will be closed until further notice.”

“Our prayers and our thoughts are with the family,” Mina added, “and we can’t imagine what they’re going through.”

Sampson hopes that he might find a way to ensure a tragedy like this never touches another family, saying, “This should never happen to nobody else’s child ever again. And if I have something to do with it, it never will again.”

A memorial to Tyre Sampson was started outside the perimeter of the ride where he tragically fell sustaining injuries that led to his death.


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