ST. LOUIS – The father of the Berkeley teen who died falling off a theme park ride in Florida spoke publicly Monday morning. This was the first time Yarnell Sampson addressed the public since his son’s autopsy report came out last week.
The autopsy showed 14-year-old Tyre Sampson died of blunt-force trauma. He fell 70 feet from a 430-foot-high ride at ICON Park in March. The medical examiner in Orlando, Florida ruled the death was accidental. Sampson’s family filed a wrongful death suit against the theme park and the ride manufacturer.
Yarnell walked up to the site of the FreeFall ride and wrote Tyre’s name and his date of birth in chalk on the fence surrounding the ride. Additionally, Yarnell wrote “death trap.”
The news conference started moments later with civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump who is representing Yarnell.
The autopsy report “confirmed everything that we suspected,” Crump said.
Sunday was a lot of things for Yarnell. It was Juneteenth, Father’s Day, and his birthday. He usually gets a phone call from Tyre on this day or he comes to visit.
“This is the first year and the first time that me as a father, I’m not having my son with me on Father’s Day or on my birthday,” Yarnell said.
He said coming to the site of Tyre’s death, was his way of being with his son.
Yarnell said he wants the FreeFall ride taken down permanently, a permanent memorial for Tyre, and a public apology.
“They let him die,” Yarnell said.
He said when visiting the park over the weekend he asked “100 people” if they knew his son had died and said “only five” knew of the incident.
“A $22 seatbelt would have saved my son’s life,” Yarnell said.
Florida State Representative Geraldine Thompson is working on filing legislation to keep incidents like this from ever happening again. The Tyre Sampson Bill will be filed on the first day of the next legislative session.
This bill “will take into account the safety record of any company that wants to operate a ride of this nature,” Thompson said. She also wants more signage for height and weight limits present at the park.
“They want to open a second ride as if Tyre Sampson’s life was inconsequential. There should be no permit. No permit and no second ride given that we’re still investigating this first death,” Thompson said.
She also pointed out that the memorial outside of the FreeFall ride for Tyre Sampson was taken down.
“That’s a permanent reminder every time I look up at that ride that my son actually had fell down,” Yarnell said.