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Teen who fell from amusement park ride exceeded ride’s weight limit, family says

“This is going to be an issue of a lack of supervision and lack of training. A straight-up negligence case,” said Texas attorney Bob Hilliard after the death of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson.

Family members of the Missouri teenager who fell to his death at an Orlando amusement park last week said two other attractions refused to allow him on due to his size.

Tyre Sampson, 14, was 6 foot 5 inches and about 340 pounds, according to relatives, NBC News reports. The beloved high school athlete from St. Louis, Missouri was visiting ICON Park as part of a football program trip. He died after falling from the Orlando FreeFall ride, which stands 430 feet tall, PEOPLE reports. 

Photo of Tyre Sampson

Staffers who witnessed the gruesome death said the teenager came out of his seat when the magnets engaged to slow the ride during the descent, according to an accident report released Monday by the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Despite Sampson being 50 pounds heavier than its published weight limit, FreeFall operators allowed him to ride. 

“This particular ride decided ‘yeah, we can take you, get on,’ when nobody else would allow him to get on the rides,” Yarnell Sampson, the teen’s father, told Fox News.

Sampson’s “harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped,” said the accident report. 

Sampson’s cousin, Shay Johnson, told WESH that the teenager called her Thursday and told her he was turned away from a ride called StarFlyer and the SlingShot because “he was too big,” she said. Both attractions have been temporarily closed amid the ongoing investigation into Sampson’s death.

“Y’all did not let him get on those two, but y’all let him get on that one, being overweight,” she said, referring to Orlando FreeFall.

According to NBC News, ICON Park spokesman William Wellons noted in an email that “ICON Park is the landlord for the entertainment destination. The SlingShot Group is responsible for the operations of the two thrill rides.” 

Per KSDK, the ride’s operation manual includes the following instructions for guests who exceed the weight limit: “Large people: 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.”

“This young man, he was athletic and he was big. He had no way of knowing,” Texas attorney Bob Hilliard, who represents Sampson’s mother, Nekia Dodd, said in an interview with KSDK. “This is going to be an issue of a lack of supervision and lack of training. A straight-up negligence case.”

“This young man was the kind of son everyone hopes for — an honor roll student, an aspiring athlete, and a kind-hearted person who cared about others,” said famed civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is working with Hilliard and represents Sampson’s father.

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