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“You stripped me of my son”: Mother of 14-year-old who fell to his death at drop tower ride finally speaks publicly

The mother of the 14-year-old teen who fell to his death at the Orlando FreeFall drop tower ride at a Florida amusement park in March has spoken out today for the first time since her son’s death.

Nekia Dodd, mother of Tyre Sampson, who fell from the Orlando FreeFall ride at ICON Park in Orlando spoke publicly today in St. Louis, Missouri, for the first time since her son died on March 24. Sampson was in Orlando with friends during spring break when he visited ICON Park, an amusement park on International Drive in Orlando.

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Tyre Sampson slipped out of the restraint in his seat on the ride and fell hundreds of feet to the ground below. Emergency personnel arrived and transported Sampson to a local hospital where he succumbed to injuries sustained from his fall.

On Tuesday, Nekia Dodd, and her attorney, Michael Haggard, spoke at a news conference in downtown St. Louis about Ms. Dodd’s son’s death.

“To get a call over the phone and not to be there as a mother to comfort; that’s very disturbing,” Dodd said during the news conference. “It’s heart-wrenching. I couldn’t do anything for my son. I couldn’t touch him. I couldn’t hold him. I couldn’t hug him. I couldn’t do anything.”

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Nekia Dodd referred to Tyre Sampson, her 14-year-old son, as her “personal teddy bear,” and called the boy a “gentle giant.” She continued by describing Sampson as a go-getter and said he was a very loving person.

Ms. Dodd said that when she received the phone call, telling her about her son’s fall, her concern was making sure there was someone to be with her son and comfort him because she was unable to be with him. She said the last time she saw her son alive was when he returned home to get his charger before leaving for Orlando.

“Oh you come back to give me a hug,” she described herself saying to Tyre Sampson. “I actually said ‘my last hug.'”

“As [Tyre was] backing out my door, he turns around and says ‘I’ll see you Saturday or Sunday,'” explained Dodd. “That was my last time speaking to my son. And that Sunday I was waiting for my son to come home. Because that’s what he told me. So to get a call to say he’s not coming back.”

Nekia Dodd says her son’s death “is a nightmare.”

“And it’s still a nightmare,” Dodd said.

14-year-old fell to his death from 131-metre-high US amusement park ride  after seat manually adjusted | Businessinsider

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Ms. Dodd and her attorney held the news conference after filing a civil suit in Orange County, Florida, on Monday. The suit names Funtime Thrill Rides, the ride and seat manufacturer of the Orlando FreeFall drop tower ride, Slingshot Group, the owner and operator of the drop tower ride in Florida, and ICON Park, where the ride was located; ICON Park is also the entity which leased the space to the owner and operator of the ride.

According to the 65-page lawsuit, the ride‘s operators should have known that riders could be “subject to unreasonably dangerous and foreseeable risks, and that serious injury and death of the occupants in the ride could result.” Most freefall rides feature a shoulder safety harness and a seatbelt, but the Orlando FreeFall drop tower ride had only an over-the-shoulder safety harness. There were no seatbelts on the ride whatsoever.

The 'mis-adjustment' of a harness sensor contributed to a teen's deadly  fall from his amusement ride seat, engineering firm finds - CNN

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During Tuesday’s news conference, Dodd’s attorney, Michael Haggard reiterated that the death of Tyre Sampson could have been prevented had there been seatbelts on the ride. Mr. Haggard also stated that the operator of the ride neglected to post warnings about proper height and weight restrictions for potential riders.

“In their manual, it says no one can ride this ride if they are over 287 pounds,” said Haggard.

“Somebody manipulated the seats, somebody changed the size of this harness and what it can fit. So the question is who did that, when did they do that and who directed it?” Haggard asked during the news conference.

nekia dodd tyre sampson

Credit: ClickOrlando

“It’s disgusting,” Ms. Dodd said. “So it’s like, you didn’t want to miss a dollar, but you stripped me of my son. Yeah, it’s disgusting.”

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!