ORLANDO, Fla. — The Florida Department of Agriculture is hiring a forensic team to investigate specifically what went wrong and led to the death of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson.
Sampson fell to his death from Orlando's FreeFall ride at ICON Park on March 24.
What You Need To Know
- FreeFall ride was inspected in December; no issues were reported
- However, that was the last time the 6-month-old ride was inspected
- Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and State Rep. Geraldine Thompson are expected to hold a news conference on Friday morning
Until the investigation is complete, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said it is unclear what changes will need to be made to prevent something like this from happening again.
While the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services overseas the operation of amusement park rides across the state and conducts initial inspections of rides when they open — plus every six months — Fried admitted it is limited in its power.
Fried said the department judges the safety of a ride based on if it was constructed following its manufacturers recommendations. She admitted there is no system in place to check to see if ride operators are following the right steps to keep a ride safe — which is something the state must ultimately leave up to the ride operators.
The Orlando FreeFall passed its initial inspection on Dec. 20 and has not been inspected since, as the ride is not six months old yet.
Fried promised the state will find out what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again.
"I promise you all, to the family, to the community, to everybody, that based on the investigation, we will be working internally if we've already gotten authority to make changes and with our legislators. — based solely on the investigation," she said.
In general, the agency has the power to impose sanctions on rides or even close them permanently, depending on the findings of an investigation. The ride is now shut down indefinitely.
Meanwhile, family and friends of Tyre Sampson held a vigil in St. Louis Thursday night, one week after his death.
“I’m sad, but all I can say is that God gained an angel, gained an angel,” said Darren Sunkett, Sampson’s football coach. “We may have lost him, but 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.”
Sampson was in eighth grade and his football coach said he was already showing great potential on the field.
A nonprofit, the Juneteenth Project Coalition, is holding a peaceful protest tonight at ICON Park, calling for the ride to be dismantled and to ensure a transparent and fair investigation of Sampson's death.
“There are so many people who are taking advantage of the situation, but with us being the civil rights organization here in Orlando and that’s our district Orange County, we’re doing the right thing as far as ensuring that there’s transparency as far as the investigation goes,” Co-founder Tina Wilson said. “We don’t want this to be another day, another dollar. We have to look at that structure … Just take the structure down, put something more friendly and possibly we can have some closure.”