ORLANDO, Fla. – Calls made to 911 after 14-year-old boy fell to his death from a free-fall amusement park ride in the heart of Orlando’s tourist district were released Friday.
Sheriff’s officials and emergency crews responded to a call late Thursday at Icon Park, which is located in the city’s tourist district along International Drive. The boy fell from the Orlando Free Fall ride, which opened late last year.
“The ride was going, and during the middle of the ride, the guy just came off,” a caller told 911.
“OK I have help on the way, is he awake?” a dispatch operator asks.
“No, he’s, he’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s gone,” the man responds.
The phone call was shared by News4JAX’s sister station WKMG News 6.
The 14-year-old, Tyree Samson, was taken to a hospital, where he died, sheriff’s officials said. Samson was visiting central Florida from Missouri with a friend’s family.
Another man who witnessed what happened told a 911 dispatcher that Samson seemed to slip out of his seat when the ride braked as it approached the bottom.
“Bam, went straight through his chair and dropped,” the man said on the 911 call. “It was the biggest smack I ever heard in my life. I seen him hit the ground.”
A woman who called 911 told a dispatcher that Samson was facedown, wasn’t responsive and appeared to have broken his arms and legs.
The Free Fall ride and an adjacent ride, the Sling Shot, have been closed indefinitely, said John Stine, sales director with the Slingshot Group. His company operates the two rides at Icon Park.
“We are absolutely saddened and devastated by what happened, and our hearts go out this young man’s family,” Stine told The Associated Press on Friday morning.
On Friday evening, Samson’s father, Yarnell, spoke with CNN.
“The pain behind it could never be taken away and sorry is not gonna take it back. And no money, no nothing in the world could replace that young man. And it’s just sad, it’s sad. A young man’s bright future was taken away from him over a ride, an amusement park thing. But hey, he was having fun, he was enjoying himself until the end,” he said.
Arnaud Jones, Samson’s coach, described the 14-year-old as mild-mannered.
“Light spoken. Yes sir. Yes ma’am. Everything. Honor roll student,” Jones said. “He would respect and take in what I’m giving him and I knew he had a bright future because he was just a great kid.”
Stine said there had been no issues reported previously with the Free Fall ride, which opened last December.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees amusement ride inspections with the exception of the state’s largest theme parks, has launched an investigation and inspectors were at the site Friday, spokesperson Caroline Stoneciper said in an email.
According to a report from the state agency, the ride had its initial permit inspection on Dec. 20, 2021, and no problems were found. The next semi-annual inspection for the ride wasn’t due for several more months.
The Slingshot Group told News 6 that workers are responsible for checking lights on the restraint system to ensure they are properly secured. The company added that the ride will not operate if the restraints do not lock properly.
The ride has over-the shoulder restraint harnesses, with two hand grips at the chest level, that riders pull down and then they are released automatically at the end of the ride. An inspector on Friday could be seen sitting in a ride seat with the security harness over his shoulders as another inspector took measurements.