‘Everyone’s Just Standing Around Looking’: Newly Released 911 Calls Describe How Witnesses Reacted After Tyre Sampson Fell 200 Feet from Orlando Amusement Park Ride

A new report reveals the Missouri teen who died after falling out of a Florida amusement park drop-tower ride slipped from his seat at a greater height than previously believed. The boy fell out of his seat halfway through the descent, crashing to the ground in front of a crowd of witnesses who appeared to be stymied about what to do to help him.

Tyre Sampson/NBC Screengrab

On Tuesday, May 3, law enforcement released the incident report of the March 24 ICON Park Free Fall accident, detailing new developments in the tragic Tyre Sampson case. 

The report, which included details given by the father of one of the deceased’s friends, who was a witness, as well as homicide investigators, revealed the 14-year-old slipped from his seat and plunged to the ground after the ride descended past the yellow reflective tape approximately 215 feet in the air on its way down from the tower.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office incident reports the ride maxed out at a speed of 75 mph and stands 430 feet high.

Leon Howard, the friend’s dad, according to the deputies’ report, said when Sampson hit the ground he appeared to still be breathing despite being unresponsive. Howard was watching the boys on the ride with his girlfriend.

The father said he saw an employee wearing a “red beanie” and believed she was in charge of securing the kids in their seats.

Howard’s son was also on the ride at the time of the accident and said he saw his friend’s last moments. The teen told the officers the ride scared him. When he hit the top of the ride, he closed his eyes out of fear until the ride was over. At that point, his friend had fallen out of the death drop.

After Sampson hit the ground, no one touched the boy until the deputies arrived, Howard said.

911 calls released on May 3, depict a crowd in a panic. A dispatcher asked witnesses if anyone could perform CPR on Sampson, although he was still breathing.

One man who called 911 said Tyre appeared to fall “straight through the chair” as the Free Fall ride hit the brakes. Describing what he witnessed as “the biggest smack I ever heard in my life.”

He added that “there’s a whole crowd around him right now.”

The 911 operator assured him there was help on the way and multiple calls were coming in.

“Yeah, yeah, like no one’s calling right now, everyone’s just standing around looking at the f-ing guy,” said the caller.

The operator reiterated that they’re fielding several calls and help was on the way.

Another man heard on one 911 recording described Sampson to the dispatcher as being face down on the ground and mentioned “he’s about 300 pounds” to the emergency worker who asked him to turn Sampson over. He was then asked to have someone help him get the 6-foot-2, 340-pound football player on his back, but just then deputies arrived.

Another caller described the accident saying, “The ride was going and during the middle of the ride, the guy came off. He’s dead. He’s dead.” Sampson was pronounced dead after emergency professionals brought him to a local hospital.

Another point the incident report detailed was how Sampson was turned away from two other popular rides, the SlingShot, and StarFlyer. The other operator refused him because of his weight and did not make the adjustments for him to get on the ride.

The incident report was not released in its totality, with redacted portions blocking out some information. The sheriff’s office said the report and calls were reviewed and redacted for the public because his death is an ongoing investigation.

Sampson was on vacation with the Howard family. The boys played on a travel football team together.

This is not the first report on the tragedy. Independent engineers enlisted by the Florida Department of Agriculture noted the sensors on the ride that regulated the opening of the Free Fall’s seat restraints were manually adjusted two times wider than mandated by the manufacturer.

What should have been a gap of 3 inches, the report said was between 6 and 7 inches. The sensors were loosened on two seats to improperly accommodate larger riders. The report said the manual adjustment may not have been the only thing that went wrong, adding there existed other “potential contributions” to the tragedy. 

The report said a full review of the ride’s design and operations was needed to make their assessment.

“These misadjustments allowed the safety lights to illuminate – improperly satisfying the ride’s electronic safety mechanisms — that allowed the ride to operate even though Mr. Sampson was not properly secured in the seat,” Nikki Fried from the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture said.

After the report was released, Sampson’s parents filed a 65-page lawsuit claiming the manufacturer, the amusement park, the ride owner, and other parties were negligent and failed to provide a safe ride for the public, including allowing the child to board the ride despite him being too large for the experience. 

Michael Haggard, an attorney for Sampson’s mother, Nekia Dodd, said, “The Sheriff’s Investigation simply confirms how tragic this accident was that took Tyre’s life.”

“It was a totally preventable incident that should have never happened, but for the absolute negligence of all involved.”

The Free Fall ride has been shut down since Sampson’s death pending several investigations. 

Back to top