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Mother of boy killed on Florida amusement ride watches it get demolished: ‘It’s a bittersweet moment’

The mother of a teen killed in a tragic accident at an amusement park last year visited the attraction to witness the ride’s demolition.

Fourteen-year-old Tyre Sampson died on 24 March 2022 while riding the FreeFall drop tower ride in Florida’s ICON Park. The teen slipped out of the harness halfway down the 400-foot drop and plummeted to his death.

Tyre was visiting Orlando from St Louis, Missouri, while on spring break with his friends. On Wednesday, his mother Nekia Dodd visited the attraction for the first time after the Florida Department of Agriculture and the park reached an agreement to demolish the ride, WFLA reported.

“Unfortunately, when he passed, I wasn’t there for him. So, I had to do this,” Ms Dodd said. “I didn’t want to come under these circumstances, but I had to do this.”

She added: “It’s heartbreaking. It’s devastating. It’s a feeling that I hope no parent ever has to go through.”

Ms Dodd described her visit to the park as a “bittersweet moment.”

“I’m thankful for the ride coming down,” she said. “But my son is not coming back. I do appreciate the state of Florida, the Department of Agriculture for allowing this ride to come down ... it should have never been built.”

Michael Haggard, an attorney for Ms Dodd, said that demolishing the ride was one of their goals to ensure Tyre’s legacy was not forgotten.

“With Nekia’s absolute determination to take this ride, that has been accomplished,” Mr Haggard said.

Tyre Sampson fell from a ride at ICON Park on 24 March 2022 (Tyre Sampson / Facebook)
Tyre Sampson fell from a ride at ICON Park on 24 March 2022 (Tyre Sampson / Facebook)

Mr Haggard also said Tyre’s family has reached an undisclosed settlement with Icon Park and the ride operator Orlando Slingshot. A lawsuit against the manufacturer is still ongoing.

An incident report filed with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services last year found that Tyre’s slipped out of the ride and that his “harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped”.

Work crews assemble the cranes that will be used to dismantle the Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park, on Tuesday, March 14
Work crews assemble the cranes that will be used to dismantle the Orlando FreeFall at ICON Park, on Tuesday, March 14

He sustained severe injuries and was rushed to the hospital soon after, but was later declared dead.

It also emerged that the teen, who was 6’5 and 380 pounds, had been turned away from two other park rides due to his size. He reportedly weighed more than 100 pounds over the limit for the FreeFall ride.

The family thanked Florida Senator Geraldine Thomson for proposing the Tyre Sampson Act, a bill that would require amusement parks to make height and weight requirements visible and seat belts for rides taller than 100 feet.

“No matter that the seats were intentionally manipulated. No matter that the sensors were manipulated. A seatbelt would have saved Tyre’s life and that is what Nekia wanted in that bill. Senator Thompson put that in there and it has passed unanimously,” Mr Haggard said.