Tyre Sampson’s parents, Nekia Dodd, and Yarnell Sampson, have settled part of their wrongful death lawsuit for an undisclosed amount. Tyre passed away last year after falling from a 430-foot-tall amusement ride on March 24.
The 14-year-old had visited the Florida park for Spring Break with another family from his Missouri hometown. Unfortunately, Tyre slipped out of the ride’s restraints as it approached the ground. At the time of the incident, the drop tower had been open for less than four months, per Fox 35. Now, it’s permanently closed and expected to be completely gone before the first anniversary of Tyre’s death.
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About a month after their child’s death, Tyre’s parents filed the lawsuit against ICON Park, owner of the ride Slingshot Group, its manufacturer Fun Time Thrill Rides, and manufacturer of the ride’s seats and harnesses Gerstlauer Amusement Rides.
Her attorney, Michael Haggard, told reporters this week that the parents have settled with Icon Park and Slingshot Group. However, they are still pursuing Fun Times and Gerstlauer.
“This death trap was made by Fun Times, who resides out of Austria, who is not under the CPSC jurisdiction, it’s not under the jurisdiction of the United States except for in this court case. They are entering appearance now, they’ve tried to evade service,” Haggard said. “They tried to evade responsibility and please remember it was the manufacturer that said you don’t need seatbelts on a ride that goes 420 feet in the air, tilts forward at 90 degrees, and comes down at 75 mph. You don’t need seatbelts, is what the foreign manufacturer said. Also, Gerstlauer, who made the seat that was manipulated.”
Haggard credited Nekia for her “courageous pledge to her son Tyre that his legacy will live forever, and she has upheld that over this last tumultuous, awful year.”
Tyre Sampson’s Mother Visits ICON Park To Watch Demolition Of Tower Ride
Michael Haggard provided the lawsuit update at a Wednesday press conference at ICON Park. Tyre’s mother, Nekia, visited the location of her son’s death for the first time to witness the start of the ride’s demolition. Getting the ride removed was her number one priority, per Haggard.
“My son took his last breath on this ride, so it’s heartbreaking, it’s devastating, it’s a feeling I hope no other parent will ever have to go through after this ride comes down. When he passed, I wasn’t there for him,” Dodd said during a press conference at the park.
Meanwhile, this week, the Florida Senate and Agriculture Committee debated a bill honoring the memory of Tyre Sampson. State Senator Geraldine Thompson filed the Tyre Sampson Act, initially targeting increased ride inspections, regulations, and training.
But Tyre’s mother, Nekia, also pushed for better safety practices for amusement rides. During Wednesday’s press conference, her lawyer said it was the second thing the mother wanted for Tyre’s legacy. Nekia sought redundant safety features for rides going higher than 150 feet in the air, including a seatbelt and a harness.
A recent investigation by the state of Florida found that Tyre’s seat was manually adjusted to accommodate his size–reported as over 300 pounds. Still, Haggard said having additional safety features could’ve saved Tyre.
“We all know if this ride had a seatbelt on it, this would have never happened. No matter that the seats were intentionally manipulated. No matter that the sensors were manipulated a seatbelt would have saved Tyre’s life. That is what Nekia wanted in that bill. Sentor Thompson put that in there and it has passed unanimously,” Haggard said.
Senator Thompson told Fox 35 she plans to offer an amendment to the bill reflecting Dodd’s suggestions. Additionally, the bill will allow the state to conduct unannounced inspections of rides, sign off on them before opening, allow for review of employee training, and shut down unsafe rides.
Still, Haggard says until Florida’s governor signs the legislation into law, “our children are all at risk.”