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the wheel at icon park
Credit: FOX 35 Orlando

911 calls released after teen falls from drop tower ride: “They didn’t secure him”

Authorities have released the 911 calls made to Orange County Fire and Rescue after a teenager fell from a drop tower ride at ICON Park in Orlando along International Drive and died.

The ICON Park in Orlando seen on Thursday, March 24, 2022. The Wheel at ICON Park is at left, Orlando SlingShot in middle, and Orlando FreeFall is at right. 

ICON Park/Credit: FOX News

On March 24, Tyre Sampson, 14, and his friends visited ICON Park in Orlando. They boarded one of the park’s newest attractions, the Orlando FreeFall drop tower ride, which takes riders to a height of more than 400 feet and tilts them forward before dropping them into a “controlled” free-fall toward the ground. But as the ring of riders around the tower began its descent, Sampson fell from his seat on the ride to the ground below.

Witnesses immediately began to place emergency calls for help. Audio of those calls has been released by the Orange County Fire and Rescue Department. Many of the callers can be heard in slow, almost monotone voices, presumably from their shock and disbelief at all they were witnessing that evening.

tyre sampson orlando freefall

Credit: Twitter/FOX 35 Orlando

The audio from the calls makes it clear that there was confusion over whether Sampson was breathing, whether he was alive, and how far up the tower the ride was when Sampson fell.

In one of the calls, the 911 dispatcher can be heard asking the caller to tell her what happened.
“The ride was going, and during the middle of the ride, the guy just fell off,” he responds.
“Okay, I have help on the way,” the dispatcher responds. “Is he awake?”
“No, he’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead,” the caller answers back. “He’s face-down; he’s not breathing, I’ve checked his pulse; there’s no pulse.”
During one of the 911 calls, the dispatcher asks how old the victim is, and the caller responds by saying that the victim looks like he’s “in his 30s.”
Another caller said that when the ride stopped, Sampson fell “right out of the seat.”

“The thing went down the drop, and like when it got closer to the bottom and hit the brakes, the guy fell right out of the seat,” the caller explained.

During at least one call placed to Orange County 911, however, a witness says that operators failed to secure the restraint on Sampson before the ride began.

911 Dispatch: Orange Country Fire and Rescue
(cross-talk)
911 Dispatch: I’ve received a couple of calls; is the patient awake?
911 Caller: We don’t know. He’s face down. We don’t know. Someone said he was breathing, but I’m not sure.
911 Dispatch: Alright. I have help on the way. Are you with him now?
911 Caller: Thank you. Yeah, we’re all here.
911 Dispatch: Alright. And how old is he?
911 Caller: I don’t know. He’s probably [redacted].
911 Dispatch: And just to confirm, is he awake?
911 Caller: I’m not sure [inaudible] he’s breathing. But he’s not responsive. It looks like his arms are broken.
911 Dispatch: And how high up was he when he fell?
911 Caller: I’m not sure, but it’s the new one that’s all the way high. It’s the, like, highest one. I don’t know from where he fell.
911 Dispatch: Okay, so was he up off the ground?
911 Caller: No, they didn’t secure the seatbelt on him.
911 Dispatch: Okay, when he fell, was he up off the ground?
911 Caller: Yes, he was up; he was on the ride already.
911 Dispatch: Alright, the paramedics [inaudible]. Is there any serious bleeding?
911 Caller: There . . . on his feet is all I see. He is non-responsive though.
911 Dispatch: Alright, just let me know when they’re right there with you. Just stay on the line and I’ll tell you exactly what to do next. Are you right next to him right now?
(sirens begin wailing in the background)
911 Caller: Yes.
911 Dispatch: Is there somebody there that could try to [inaudible] to try to do CPR?
911 Caller: No, he’s too heavy to. He’s on his stomach.
(police sirens wailing)
911 Dispatch: Okay, the cops are there? Okay, I’ll go ahead and let them take over from here. You did a great job calling. If anything worsens, let them know, okay?
911 Caller: Okay, thank you.
911 Dispatch: Thank you.

the wheel at icon park and police cruiser

Credit: FOX 35 Orlando

According to FOX 35 Orlando, Sampson’s father said that the teen was uncomfortable from the beginning.
“When the ride took off, that’s when he was feeling uncomfortable,” said Yarnell Sampson, Trye’s father. “He was like, ‘This thing is moving.’ That’s when he started freaking out. “He was explaining to his friends next to him, ‘If I don’t make it down, please tell my mom and dad I love them.’ For him to say something like that, he must’ve felt something.”
FOX 35 Orlando obtained a video from that evening in which a person can be heard asking, “Did you check him?” after Sampson’s fall.
“Yeah, the light was on,” is the response on the video.

“You guys are sure you checked him?” asks a person in the video.

World's tallest drop tower, slingshot now open in Orlando

Credit: Click Orlando

Martin says this tragedy was not the fault of Tyre Sampson himself.

“This young man did nothing wrong,” Martin said. “It’s the owner operator’s responsibility to inform the rider what the requirements are.”

“The most spectacular thing that the industry has done lately is they put sample chairs outside the ride before you get into the queue line,” Martin explained. “Those model chairs are for you to sit down in and sit to see if you fit. If that chair existed at the entrance, that would be your first level of safety. It didn’t [at the Orlando FreeFall drop tower ride].”

orlando freefall inspection

Credit: WESH

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service continues its investigation at ICON Park as the agency works to determine how Tyre Sampson fell from his seat on the drop tower ride. Both the Orlando FreeFall ride and the Orlando Slingshot attraction are not in operation at this time, pending the completion of the investigation. However, at least one senator has called for the permanent closure of the drop tower ride at ICON Park in the interest of public safety.

About Becky Burkett

I'm an enthusiastic writer who finds joy in random things like cold weather, snow, "I Love Lucy," "The Andy Griffith Show," journals full of blank paper, countdowns to Christmas, the month of December, "Toy Story," "Sleeping Beauty," my 4 kids, my 4 shih tsus, Disney Parks history, Imagineering and visiting the parks. I think Walt Disney is the standard against which genius should be measured. I love to write about Disney Parks, Disney history, all things Imagineering and PIXAR. I adore the colors, story and art direction of Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" (Team Make it Blue!), and "Toy Story" is life (minus "Toy Story 4"). I believe Walt Disney was so much more than an entertainment and theme park tycoon; I believe he was a savant with a vision for life and how it could be if happiness and kindness are strived for. I love Biergarten at EPCOT and 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian. You can find me croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room, chillin' on the PeopleMover or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. I'm always looking for Imagineers in the parks, and I'd rather meet Joe Rohde and Tony Baxter than anyone in Hollywood! Hey, if you dream it, you really can do it!