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Tyre Sampson’s family gathers to honor teen 1 year after tragic death on Orlando FreeFall

By Nick Papantonis, Adam Poulisse,


A father shared his grief exactly one year after losing his 14-year-old son on a local ride.


Tyre Sampson’s father returned to the former site of the Orlando FreeFall ride along International Drive this morning. Sampson fell to his death from the ride a year ago Friday.

Family let balloons go to represent the loss they experienced a year ago, and the continuation of their work to make sure Sampson’s legacy goes beyond what happened at the attraction.

READ: Family remembers Tyre Sampson 1 year after his death on the Orlando FreeFall ride

A lot has changed since last year. The park and the ride operators have settled with the family and state. The FreeFall was recently torn down, and the family is working on a memorial to be placed on-site.

The family also called for the ride to be scrapped and not set up somewhere else in the U.S. or beyond.

PHOTOS: Family remembers Tyre Sampson 1 year after his death on the Orlando FreeFall ride

Trevor Arnold, attorney for Orlando Slingshot, said in a prepared statement:

“Today, we communicated with Tyre Sampson’s mother, Nekia Dodd, that Ritchie Armstrong through Orlando Slingshot will be establishing a $100,000 donation by contributing $20,000 over five years to the ‘Tyre ‘Big Tick’ Sampson Foundation L.L.C.’ that Ms. Dodd established to support school athletic programs in memory of her son. While we originally expected to contribute to a scholarship, this foundation is more in line with the goals of Tyre’s family. We know this donation is a very small gesture compared to the unexplainable tragic loss of Tyre one year ago today. But, it is our hope that this contribution will bring some comfort to Tyre’s family and serve as a positive reminder of Tyre for those student athletes it supports.”

SEE: Process to take down Orlando FreeFall begins following death of 14-year-old boy

Florida Sen. Geraldine Thompson is pushing a bill dubbed the Tyre Sampson Act, which takes a series of steps to protect riders, requiring signage so riders know the height and weight requirement before they get on rides.

According to state investigators, Sampson was too tall and too heavy for the ride. Investigators also found out that the operator made adjustments to seats on the ride not approved by the manufacturer to accommodate larger people.

One of the hurdles Thompson mentioned involves money. The Tyre Sampson Act calls for 18 inspectors to travel the state to inspect rides. As it stands today, there’s no money set aside to pay them.

READ: ‘Tyre Sampson’ bills fix ride safety oversights but keeps records hidden longer

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