ORLANDO, Fla. — Tyre Sampson would have turned 15 years old on Wednesday. His father and local leaders gathered outside the Orlando FreeFall ride at ICON Park where he fell to his death with balloons and a message.
"Happy Birthday to you!" Tyre’s father, Yarnell Sampson, sang with the others. But Sampson isn’t feeling really happy, as he stands outside the attraction on International Drive. "It’s business as usual for them. Profit over safety," he said.
During a sit-down interview, Sampson told Fox affiliate WOFL what he would like to see at the site. "There’s no memorial out there for him stating that he passed away. Could be at least a picture."
He said nothing has changed since his son died on March 24, and he worries about the safety of others. "The same situation happened in 1999, a drop tower ride. A young man died, but it was a Hispanic man."
The family of 12-year-old Joshua Smurphat was on a drop ride at a California amusement park when he slipped out of his seat and fell to his death. "Maybe cause it’s a color issue, that’s why the thing is getting dragged around so slowly. I think that’s part of the reason."
He said he will do everything he can to fight to get the Orlando FreeFall shut down and removed from ICON Park. "These guys got a lot of money, power, a lot of influences. I don’t got that, but what I do got, is a heart of a lion. And I love my son unconditionally."
Attorney Ben Crump is trying to get the case expedited in court. "We are asking the court to fast-track the case. Give a trial date, so this family can get answers," Crump said.
He said if Orlando is worried about tourism, they should take the ride down, instead of trying to keep it up with safety changes. "We owe it to all the children all over the world to make sure this never happens again," he added.
While changes could protect the lives of other kids, it’s too late for Tyre, his father said. "A young man lost his life. A 4.0 honor student lost his life. His name was Tyre Sampson, which was my son, my only child."
The Orlando Slingshot Group released this statement through their attorneys regarding a memorial:
"We continue to cooperate with all inquiries, and it is our hope that one way Tyre’s name and memory can live on is through the proposed ‘Tyre Sampson Bill,’ which we support. The loss of Tyre was a tragic accident that we take very seriously."