The family of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson is speaking out after forensic analysis determined the teen’s death on an amusement park thrill ride could’ve been prevented.
Sampson’s parents, Nekia Dodd and Yarnell Sampson, filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against ICON Park in Orlando on Monday after officials determined an operator error was the primary suspected cause of the teen’s death, KSDK reported.
The 65-page complaint demands a jury trial.
“This could’ve been prevented … it should’ve been prevented,” Dodd told “Good Morning America.”
“So as an operator, you have a job to check those rides, you know. The video I saw, that was not done. And if it was done, it should’ve been done more than once, you know.”
Sampson slipped out of his seat on the FreeFall ride March 24 and fell over 100 feet to the pavement. Investigators released a preliminary report last week where a forensic engineering firm found that Sampson “was not properly secured in the seat” and a safety sensor had been “manually adjusted” to increase the gap between the restraint harness and the seat.
Sampson’s parents filed the lawsuit in the 9th Circuit Court in Orange County, Florida, accusing multiple defendants of negligence. ICON Park as well as the manufacturer and the ride’s operator were named in the suit.
“Tyre had a long and prosperous life in front of him that was cut short by this tragic event,” the lawsuit states.
The FreeFall is the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower, standing at 430 feet. The ride shoots to the top before tilting forward 30 degrees and free falling at speeds of more than 75 miles per hour. Sampson was visiting the park on spring break from his hometown in St. Louis.
While most free-fall rides have a shoulder harness and a seatbelt to protect the riders, the Freeall only has an over-the-shoulder harness for riders, the lawsuit claims. The suit accuses operators of negligently allowing the teen to board the ride without checking his height and weight.
The lawsuit says that had the manufacturers installed the seatbelts, it would’ve only cost $22 a seat, or about $660 total. The ride’s manual says riders couldn’t weigh over 287 pounds. However, Sampson weighed well over 300 pounds at the time of his death.
“They never weighed him, no sign or anything like that, and then they put him in a manipulated seat without a secondary restraint system. It was an accident waiting to happen,” the family’s attorney, Michael Haggard, said.