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Family of teen who fell from Florida 'free fall' ride files wrongful death lawsuit

The family of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson, who fell to his death after riding the Orlando FreeFall ride at Florida's ICON Park last month, filed a wrongful death lawsuit Monday. File Photo by reunionvacationhomes.com/<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ICON_Orlando_Observation_Wheel.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>
The family of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson, who fell to his death after riding the Orlando FreeFall ride at Florida's ICON Park last month, filed a wrongful death lawsuit Monday. File Photo by reunionvacationhomes.com/Wikimedia Commons

April 25 (UPI) -- The family of the 14-year-old boy who fell to his death from a ride at a Florida amusement park last month has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed Sunday on behalf of the family of Tyre Sampson, claimed the Orlando FreeFall ride at Florida's ICON Park was "unreasonably dangerous" and that the teen died as a result of the park's negligence.

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ICON Park, which leased the space; the Slingshot Group, owner and operator of the ride; Funtime Handels GmbH, the ride's Austrian manufacturer; Keator Construction, which built the ride; and other businesses related to the ride were named as defendants in the suit.

"The defendants in Tyre's case showed negligence in a multitude of ways," family attorney Ben Crump said.

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"From the ride and seat manufacturers and the installer to the owners and operators, the defendants had more than enough chances to enact safeguards, such as seatbelts, that could have prevented Tyre's death.

"They didn't and their poor decisions resulted in deadly consequences for a promising young man and lifelong pain for his family."

Tyre, of St. Louis, died March 24 after plummeting from the 430-foot-tall tower ride that raises riders up into the air, before dropping them at speeds of up to 75 mph. Magnets slow the ride dozens of feet from the bottom before bringing it to a stop.

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The lawsuit filed Monday said the ride operator "negligently adjusted restraint systems on the Free Fall Ride ... failed to train their employees ... and failed to provide a safe amusement park ride" by "failing to post warnings as to the proper height and weight restrictions for the free fall."

Last week, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried said a 14-page forensic report by Quest Engineering of Tallahassee, Fla., found that "manual adjustments had been made" to the sensor of Tyre's seat that did not shut down the ride even though he was never properly secured.

"By manipulating the seats, the sensors were totally tripped and did not recognize anything. And so, obviously, Slingshot is responsible for the negligence of their employees so there is really no sense in suing them individually in this case," said Michael Haggard, an attorney for the Sampson family.

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The suit also notes that Sampson was 6 feet. 2 inches tall and weighed 380 pounds, and the park did not publicly post the maximum weight of 287 pounds as indicated by manufacturer Funtime Handels.

State Rep. Geraldine Thompson said the adjustments to the seat were presumably made "to allow for larger riders."

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The lawsuit also claims that a reasonable manufacturer would have installed seatbelts or a secondary restraint system, prevented the proximity sensors from being manipulated and installed a mechanism to stop the ride from functioning if riders weren't properly secured.

The family is seeking damages of more than $30,000 and attorney fees.

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