FERGUSON, Mo. — Dozens of St. Louis community members braved the wintry mix weather Thursday evening at Forest Wood Park to honor 14-year-old Tyre Sampson who died last week in Florida. 

On March 24, Sampson was killed when he fell from the FreeFall ride at ICON Park. He was in Orlando with his football team for spring break.

Sampson’s family and friends brought balloons and candles to pay tribute to his memory. He was an honor roll student at City Garden Montessori and was going to play football at East St. Louis Senior High School.

“He was one of the hardest working eighth-graders that we had a pleasure to work with,” said Darren Sunkett, varsity football coach and athletics director at East St. Louis Senior High.

Sunkett knew Sampson for about eight months and said he had a lot of potential.

“I’m sad but all I can say is that God gained an angel,” Sunkett said. “He’s in a better place. We might not know it right now, but believe me, he’s in a better place and he’s peaceful.” 

After kind words were said about Sampson, family and friends released balloons at the park. 

Sampson played on the Bad Boyz Football Team. His teammates remember his sense of humor, as well as his size 17 shoes. They said Sampson was their body guard and was a good football player.

His best friend, Leon Howard, said he will miss going to football practice with him. 

“We go to practice Monday to Thursday, just miss riding home with him, and going with him to practice and seeing him at practice working hard,” Howard said. “Long live Big Tick.”

A peaceful protest will take place Friday, April 1, at ICON Park near the Free Fall ride organized by the Juneteenth Project Coalition. The organization is calling for the ride to be disassembled. Sampson’s cousin Shay Johnson is expected to attend.