Photos By: Duane C. Fernandez Sr. Hardnotts Photography L.L.C.
Story By: Duane C. Fernandez Sr.
On Friday, June 17, two days before Father’s Day, Juneteenth and his birthday, Yarnell Sampson ventured out on his journey to the Orlando Free Fall ride in ICON Park. He went to
ICON PARK to get peace,” he said.
Yarnell was surprised to find that three months after his 14-year-old son Tyre Sampson had fallen to his death from the ride, that the memorial of flowers, balloons and photographs along the fencing surrounding the ride were gone, and had been replaced by discarded trash and bottles. Many of the people passing by didn't know that a young man had actually died right on that site Yarnell said.
Yarnell Sampson and members of his family joined civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, State
Rep. Geraldine Thompson and local activists on Monday June 20, at a press conference to
call for the ride to be torn down.
Tyre Sampson died March 24 after falling from the ride. The autopsy report released last week confirmed the 6-foot-4, 383-pound teenager weighed about a 100 pounds more than ride’s weight limit would allow. The Sampson family filed a lawsuit in April against the ride’s owner, SlingShot Group, its landlord ICON Park and various manufacturers and installers who worked on the drop tower, alleging negligence.
During the press conference on Monday attorney Crump said," these companies cannot be allowed to get away with this. Tyre Sampson’s death does matter.” State Rep Thompson, D-Orlando, will file the "Tyre Sampson bill" on the first day of the next state legislative session on March 7, 2023. "The bill would take into account the “safety record” of any company that wants to build and operate a ride like the Free Fall tower," State Rep Thompson said. Slingshot Group already has a lease with ICON Park to launch a second ride.
“The Slingshot Group want to open a second ride as if Tyre Sampson’s life never mattered at all," said, Sampson, who wore a shirt emblazoned with the words “Fly High Beloved Son” and a picture of his son in football gear. Sampson pressed his concern about enacting change before someone else dies. "The fatal tragedy of Tyre Sampson hasn’t stopped the ride operators and owners from conducting business as usual," Sampson added. He said that he believes it's because his son was a Black child from St. Louis, Mo., meaningful action has been moving very slow. Sampson went on to say this accident shouldn't be a color thing, it's a human thing.
Sampson’s attorneys, are fighting to turn the site into a permanent memorial.
The Juneteenth Project Coalition pleaded for people to sign a petition calling for accountability among the ride operators and ICON Park. As of Monday afternoon, it had garnered 342 signatures, but the coalition and Sampson are asking for at least 25,000. “He was 14 years old. He was a kid,” said Sampson. During the press conference on Monday, Juneteenth Project Coalition founder Tina Wilson stood near the Free Fall ride with a megaphone demanding for the ride to be torn down and pleading with the community to join their protest.