The parents of a 14-year-old Missouri boy who fell to his death from a ride in Florida in March have sued the amusement park, the ride’s operators and its manufacturer for negligence, saying there were no seatbelts or warnings about height and weight restrictions.
Nekia Dodd and Yarnell Sampson, the parents of the teenager, Tyre Sampson, filed the lawsuit on Monday in circuit court in Orange County, Fla. It names ICON Park, the manufacturers of the Free Fall ride and its safety harnesses, the ride’s owner and its operators among the defendants.
The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial.
On March 24, Tyre, a middle school student, went to ICON Park in Orlando, Fla., during his spring break, the document says. At about 11 p.m., he climbed into the Free Fall ride, which plummets to the ground from 430 feet at more than 75 miles per hour, the lawsuit says.
The ride had an “over-the-shoulder harness” but no seatbelt, it says. Tyre, who was 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighed about 380 pounds, was not advised about any weight or height restrictions by employees, and none were posted, the lawsuit says. His weight was “significantly over the weight restriction listed in the ride’s manual,” one of the lawyers who filed the lawsuit, Ben Crump, said in a statement.
As the drop tower was falling, Tyre was “ejected out of his seat and fell at least a hundred feet to his death,” the lawsuit says. The suit says that Tyre was not given adequate emergency medical attention after the fall.
“Tyre was a fourteen-year-old young boy who was an honor-roll student and football player,” the lawsuit says. “Despite his prowess on the football field, he was known as a kind-hearted person who cared about others. Tyre had a long and prosperous life in front of him that was cut short by this tragic event.”
The suit says the park failed to train employees to enforce safety measures and operate the ride in a way that avoided “foreseeable injury and death.” Other allegations include that the park failed to install a secondary restraint and that it did not have a way of confirming that restraints were secure.
“This is a cascade of grossly negligent conduct by a full team of culpable and sophisticated defendants — all willing to sacrifice the simplest of safety measures to assure themselves the quickest and biggest payday possible,” Bob Hilliard, one of the lawyers representing Tyre’s father, said in a statement.
A representative for ICON Park could not be reached. Trevor Arnold, a lawyer for the ride’s owner, Orlando Slingshot, said in a statement that the company “continues to fully cooperate with the State during its investigation.”
“We reiterate that all protocols, procedures and safety measures provided by the manufacturer of the ride were followed,” Mr. Arnold said.
An investigation by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services found that adjustments had been made to the “sensor of the seat in question to allow the harness restraint opening to be almost double that of the normal restraint opening range,” the department’s commissioner, Nikki Fried, said at a news conference last week. That adjustment allowed the safety mechanism to operate even though Tyre was not secured in the seat, she said.
Tyre was a student at City Garden Montessori School in St. Louis. School leaders said in a statement last month that he was “a beloved and treasured member of our City Garden family.”