Florida ride dismantled after fatal fall of Missouri teen, mom calls it ‘bittersweet moment’

ORLANDO, Florida (WFLA) – The mother of the Missouri teenager who fell to his death at the Orlando FreeFall attraction at ICON Park last year visited the site for the first time on Wednesday.

tire sampson, 14, died while vacationing in Orlando on March 24, 2022.

Aautopsy revealed that Sampson suffered numerous broken bones and internal injuries in the fall, which were ruled an accidental death. It showed that Sampson weighed 383 pounds, well above the driver’s manual weight limit of 287 pounds.

Now the Orlando FreeFall is in the process of demolition as part of an agreement between the Company and the Florida Department of Agriculture.

Orlando Slingshot, the ride operator, told Nexstar’s WFLA in a statement that he had hired amusement park Ride Entertainment to coordinate the deconstruction, which began this week.

“This activity is expected to continue into the following week due to the size of the ride. We hope to have the ride fully deconstructed before the anniversary of Tire Sampson’s tragic death and we will continue to work in that direction and will release schedules as they become available,” wrote Trevor Arnold, GrayRobinson PA, attorney for Orlando Slingshot.

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Nekia Dodd, Sampson’s mother, spoke to reporters during their visit to the site on Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s a bittersweet moment,” Dodd said. “You know, the ride is coming down, I’m grateful for that, but my son isn’t coming back.”

State investigators found that the seat belt in Sampson’s seat had been tampered with to accommodate guests who exceeded the ride’s weight limit.

“It’s stunning and not in a good way,” Dodd said. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s devastating. It’s a feeling I hope no parent ever has to go through.”

Sampson’s family had filed a complaintlegal actionagainst the owner, manufacturer and lessor of the ride, alleging that they acted negligently and failed to provide a safe ride. A lawyer for the family said Wednesday they had reached an agreement with the owner, but gave no details.

“We are pleased that an agreement has been reached. We continue to support Senator Thompson in her efforts to make the Tire Sampson Bill state law,” Arnold wrote in a statement.

The lawsuit against the Austrian amusement ride manufacturer Funtime is still pending.

“I appreciate the state of Florida, the Department of Agriculture and all of these people who agreed and allowed this ride,” Dodd said. “It’s a horrible ride. It should never have been built if you ask me.”

Another focus for the family was on the Tire Sampson’s bill in the Florida Legislature, aimed to strengthen the state’s driving safety and reporting laws. The law would prevent operators of smaller Florida attractions from making unauthorized adjustments to a ride’s restraint systems and would require operators to provide the state with more detailed safety and operational records.

It was recently voted on by a Senate committee.

“It doesn’t matter if the seats were deliberately tampered with. It doesn’t matter if the sensors were tampered with. A seat belt would have saved Tire’s life, and that’s what Nekia wanted in this bill. Senator Thompson put that in and it passed unanimously,” said Michael Haggard, Dodd’s attorney.

An ICON Park representative said in a statement that he supports both the demolition of the ride and the Tire Sampson legislation.

“We agree with the goal of providing additional due diligence and oversight for rider training, testing and process documentation for medium to small attraction operators, which is also what we focus on in our own rigorous ride safety protocols,” the company wrote in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

https://fox2now.com/news/missouri/florida-ride-dismantled-after-teens-fatal-fall-mother-calls-it-bittersweet-moment/ Florida ride dismantled after fatal fall of Missouri teen, mom calls it ‘bittersweet moment’

Sarah Y. Kim

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