ORLANDO, Fla. - It's been nearly a year since 14-year-old Tyre Sampson slipped through the restraints of the Orlando Free Fall drop tower ride at ICON Park and died, prompting an investigation into ride safety and proposed legislation to make rides safer.
This week, officials began to dismantle pieces of the 400-foot ride, part of an agreement to fully demolish the ride in wake of Sampson's death. The goal is to have the ride fully torn down by March 24, which will mark the year anniversary of the teen's death.
On Tuesday, crews were seen removing bolts from various parts of the ride, as well as removing black fencing that one queued people waiting to give the ride a try. Through its attorney, Orlando Slingshot said in a statement that it expects the deconstruction process to take a couple of weeks.
For Tyre Sampson's father, Yarnell, it's welcome news.
"I think they’re finally putting their money where your mouth is," he said.
"This is just a step towards the right direction, and I’m glad they finally realized they made a mistake, and they’re trying to fix it," he said.
A state investigation found that some seats on Orlando FreeFall, including the seat Tyre Sampson as in, were manually adjusted, which overrode some of the ride's safety sensors and fined the ride's owners $250,000. Slingshot Group challenged the state's findings and eventually came to a settlement with the state and agreed to take down the ride.
The ride itself was touted as the tallest free fall ride in the world when it opened. The ride would take passengers some 400 feet into the air before tilting them forward slightly and then pulling them back down toward the ground.
Tyre Sampson's parents – Yarnell and Nekia Dodd – filed a wrongful death lawsuit against several companies after his death.
"Every time I see that site I get sick over and over again because it’s a reminder that your child fell from several feet crashing to the earth and lost his life," Tyre's dad said. He also hopes the ride's owners stick to their word regarding a scholarship in Tyre's name.
Tyre was described as a good student who loved sports. He was in town with another family on spring break.
"Let’s talk about making the difference for a parent who may have never thought about sending their kid to college and then they come back and buy their mama house. They can be better leaders in their community. We may have another black president other brown president come out the situation," said Sampson.