ORLANDO, Fla. — A recently released autopsy report ruled 14-year-old Tyre Sampson's death an accident. The teen's family, however, wants to make sure his legacy is not "swept under the rug."
Yarnell Sampson, Tyre's father, and attorney Ben Crump addressed the report on Monday near the site of the 430-foot Orlando drop-tower ride where the teen fell to his death in March.
Yarnell explained that he was always with his son on Father's Day, which is also his birthday. However, when he went to visit his son's memorial site over the weekend, he says there was nothing there to honor Tyre's death.
He and Crump accused the park and the ride operators, The Slingshot Group, of putting "profit over safety" during a time when they should be working toward change.
"To Slingshot Group, to ICON Park executives, you all cannot simply sweep this under the rug as if Tyre Sampson’s death doesn’t matter. Because Tyre Sampson matters, his life matters, his legacy matters..." Crump said.
Yarnell said he wants the ride removed and a permanent memorial honoring Tyre to go up in its place.
Florida Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, accused The Slingshot Group of moving forward with plans to put up another ride at the park and said she's working on legislation to increase accountability for theme park ride operators.
"So the bill will say before a permit is issued, we will take into account the safety record of the operator who has had previous experience," Thompson said. The Orange County state representative said the bill will always require rides to have height and weight restrictions posted for passengers to read before admittance.
In the Department of Agriculture's investigation, it stated that after inspection and permitting, the ICON park ride was manually altered. Thompson said she hopes the change in the legislation will ensure that does not happen again.
Thompson said the bill "will focus on the duty of operators to notify the State Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services if a ride is modified after a permit is issued."
The bill will detail mandatory training for ride operators and require inspections of rides to be conducted more frequently. Thompson said a ride manufacturer's safety record will be evaluated and reviewed before a permit is issued for additional rides to be opened.
"A fiscal analysis will be conducted once the bill is introduced at the beginning of the next legislative session," Thompson said. "Safety and assuring tourists that they may enjoy Florida’s attractions without fear for their well-being is not a partisan issue and I expect to work with my colleagues across the aisle to get the bill passed."
A lawyer with the company provided 10 Tampa Bay with the following statement, saying it is not true that the company is planning to put up another ride but intends to reopen the Slingshot ride since its closure.
"We support the concepts outlined today in Florida Senator [sic] Geraldine Thompson’s 'Tyre Sampson Bill,'" said Trevor Arnold with GrayRobinson P.A. "The safety of our patrons always comes first. Our company is not planning to open a new ride at ICON Park, however we do hope to reopen the Slingshot ride, once we have all the necessary approvals from the Department of Agriculture.
"Also, we have been coordinating with representatives of Tyre’s family to return items from the memorial area to them, and we will continue to do so in the future."
The investigation into Tyre's death is still being handled by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
"The investigation remains ongoing and the department won’t be commenting further until it is complete," a representative from the office responded.
In April, Yarnell Sampson and Nekia Dodd, Tyre's mother, filed a lawsuit against several companies related to the Orlando FreeFall tower ride, including ICON Park and ride operating company The Slingshot Group.
Yarnell did not provide updates on the lawsuit on Monday but said he would continue to fight for justice for his son for as long as it takes.
“I'm a fighter. I've been fighting all my life and I refuse to let this go under the rug because my son didn’t deserve this," he said. "He didn't ask to die."