ORLANDO, Fla. (WFLA) – Attorneys representing Tyre Sampson’s family are planning to file a negligence and product liability lawsuit in the coming weeks against several companies tied to the boy’s death.
Sampson, 14, of Missouri, died after falling from the Orlando Free Fall ride at Icon Park in late March.
“Other than George Floyd’s tragic torture video, I think this is the worst tragedy captured on video that I’ve ever seen,” said attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Sampson’s father Yarnell Sampson.
Crump joined other members of the legal team, experts they have hired and representatives from the potential defendants at an hours-long inspection of the ride Tuesday.
“We’re here doing a thorough investigation into the tragic killing of this 14-year old child who should have never been killed. We believe this was completely preventable,” said Crump.
Another attorney, who is representing Sampson’s mother Nekia Dodd, said the lawsuit could target Funtime, the ride manufacturer, Slingshot Group of Companies, the ride operator, the seat manufacturer, and Icon Park itself.
It is believed Sampson exceeded the ride’s weight limit.
“We looked at everything from the dangers of the design of the ride, to the failure to have redundant safety measures to keep passengers safe, the failure to make sure you screen passengers for weight,” said Michael Haggard, Dodd’s attorney, of Tuesday’s visit to the ride.
Haggard is working with Crump’s team to file the lawsuit jointly.
“I don’t know how anyone could explain this happening without there being negligence. There’s no way something like this can happen without a failure to keep someone safe,” he said.
Haggard said his client wants to see change to prevent this from happening again.
“We know that a simple latch belt from the seat to the harness would have absolutely saved Tyre’s life. Their sister ride in Dollywood in Tennessee has that device,” he said.
Haggard said Sampson’s mother is still in shock and is planning her son’s funeral for this weekend.
The aspiring football star, the lawyer said, had a soft side.
“He’s the biggest guy in every class. But he would be sitting there with a kid maybe a quarter of his size, drawing art. He was the big buddy to everybody, the softie,” said Haggard.
The civil litigation will progress alongside a state investigation by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Commissioner Nikki Fried announced last week the state hired a private engineering firm to assist with the investigation.
In a statement, ICON Park wrote that it looks forward to working with the investigative entities involved.
“As the landlord at ICON Park, our mission is to provide safe family entertainment. We rely on our tenants to be experts at what they do,” the statement read.
News Channel 8’s calls to Slingshot’s spokesperson were not returned Tuesday.
The ride is closed pending the state’s investigation.