The teenager who plunged to his death from the world’s tallest free-standing drop tower at a Florida amusement park has been identified as a 14-year-old student vacationing with a friend’s family.
Tire Sampson, of Missouri, died Thursday night when he fell from the Orlando Free Fall ride at ICON Park in Orlando shortly after 11 p.m.
The teen was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead from his injuries.
Orange County Sheriff John Mina released the boy’s name at a news conference Friday, saying the evidence so far pointed to his death as “a terrible tragedy.”
“Based on all the information from our preliminary investigation, it appears to be a terrible tragedy, but our investigation is still open,” he said.
A photo circulating online appears to show the teen’s safety harness was not lowered around him at some point before the ride took off. In the image, the passengers next to him appear to have their harnesses already fastened.
Sheriff Mina said the 14-year-old was visiting Orlando with another family when the incident unfolded.
He said victim advocates are in contact with Tyre’s family, as he said he “can’t imagine the pain and anguish his family must be going through.”
Tire youth football coach AJ Jones paid tribute to the teenager as a “humble giant” who dreamed of playing football for the NFL.
Mr Jones of Bad Boyz Football said news 6 he was “devastated” when he learned of Tyre’s death.
He described the teen as an outstanding student who was poised to become the starting offensive lineman at East St. Louis High School in the fall.
Images shared by Today The show captured the moment before the ride took off, with crew members talking to a group of passengers about seat belts.
A female passenger who seems concerned asks about seat belts and is told that there are none on the trip.
Instead, passengers are restrained for the ride in a plastic harness that covers their shoulders and chest.
As the ride begins to move into the air, the operator is heard asking, “Hey, did you check your seat belt on the left side, seat belt.”
Later footage shows the moment the boy is thrown from the playset as he falls towards the ground.
As workers rush to the scene, they can be heard asking each other “did you check it out?” while other panicked passengers on the ride yell “let us out.”
Other park goers who witnessed the teen fall described how people were “in a panic and screaming” when they realized what had happened.
Montreal Williams said fox35 that “at first we thought it was a piece of the ride or whatever until we got a little closer and it was a person lying on the ground.”
John Stine, director of sales and marketing for the Slingshot Group of Companies, which owns and operates the attraction, said Free Fall will remain closed indefinitely while the investigation continues.
He said Friday that park staff “operate the ride with all safety precautions in mind” and said the boy was in a safety harness at the time of the tragedy.
“Our hearts go out to the family of this young man,” he said.
On Friday, ICON Park released a statement saying the attraction’s owner is “fully cooperating with authorities and ICON Park is doing everything it can to help.”
The Orlando Free Fall attraction first opened in December and has since become a popular attraction for the Florida theme park.
The premise of the thrill is that a vehicle circles a central tower as it climbs the 400-foot drop.
Once at the top, the riders briefly lean forward and look down at the ground before racing toward it at 75mph.
This is not the first time ICON Park has experienced a fatal accident in recent years.
A 21-year-old park employee died after falling 200 feet from the Orlando StarFlyer attraction while performing a security check.
The employee was about halfway up the 450-foot-tall structure before falling to his death and striking a platform below the kit.
First responders said the man had gone into cardiac arrest when they were called to the scene shortly after 8 a.m. on September 14, 2020.