ORLANDO, Fla. (WFLA) — The mother of Tyre Sampson, the teenager who fell to his death from an amusement park ride in Orlando last month, says she’s living a nightmare.
Nekia Dodd spoke for the first time on Tuesday since her son’s tragic death, calling Sampson a gentle giant and her teddy bear. She says she was sitting down to dinner and a movie in Missouri with her daughter on Thursday, March 24 when she received the life-shattering call about her son’s death.
“I couldn’t do anything for my son but cry over the phone,” Dodd said. “I couldn’t touch him. I couldn’t hold him. I couldn’t hug him. I couldn’t do anything. I wouldn’t wish that on any parent.”
Sampson, the 14-year-old from Missouri, was visiting Orlando last month with a friend’s family when he died. He fell from his seat on the 430-foot “Orlando Free-Fall” at ICON Park and was rushed to Arnold Palmer Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
A report from the state shows the harness on Sampson’s seat was manipulated to fit larger guests. Documents obtained by WFLA earlier this month showed the maximum weight for the ride was less than 287 pounds. Sampson was 6’5″ and weighed more than 300 pounds, according to his father.
“I have every emotion that you possibly can feel,” Dodd said. “Anger, frustrated, I mean – I’m mad, I’m sickened. All of that. Because there should have been more, better signage out.”
Dodd and Sampson’s father, Yarnell Sampson, filed a wrongful death lawsuit on Monday against the ride owner, manufacturer and landlord, alleging product liability and negligence.
Dodd wants to see the ride come down permanently, and stricter laws regarding ride safety.
“You don’t want to rob the kids of enjoying themselves but in the same breath you’re like – I don’t want this to happen to another family,” she said. “Not just a child but another family, period.”
Dodd says she has not been to the site of her son’s death, and has no intention to ever visit.
Sampson’s father, however, was in Orlando Tuesday to get answers and pay his respect. He visited ICON Park with his attorney, Ben Crump.
During a news conference addressing the lawsuit filed Monday, Yarnell Sampson said he saw a video of Tyre’s fall before he even realized it was his son.
“When I found out it was my child, it took the breath out of me,” Yarnell Sampson said. “It’s made me numb and helpless because I wasn’t there to protect my son. But I’m here now to talk up for my son because I’m speaking up for the voiceless.”
The father says he wants justice for his son.
“Justice for Tyre. That’s the narrative,” he said. “It shouldn’t be profit over safety. It should be safety over profit… This story right here has never been about money. This story right here is about change. It’s about no other child should have to die off an amusement park ride. No other parent should have to bury their child.”
“As long as I’ve got breath in my body to speak up for him, that’s what I’m gonna do,” Sampson added.