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A woman claiming to be the cousin of the 14-year-old who died after falling off of a ride at an Orlando, Florida amusement park says that the teenager was denied entrance to two of the other rides because of his weight. However, the teen’s family says they don’t know the woman and that she is not a cousin.
Tyre Sampson, 14, died after falling off of the Orlando FreeFall ride at ICON Park on March 24. The ride is 430-feet-tall, according to the attraction.
Shay Johnson, while falsely claiming to be Sampson’s cousin, told Spectrum News 13 at a candlelight vigil on Monday that the teenager was stopped from riding two other rides in the amusement park because of his weight.
“[Tyre] said ‘I want to get on the swing on International,’ I said ‘Okay, ride it twice and ride it for me, too.’ And he called me back about seven minutes later, he said, ‘They said I’m too big, I can’t ride,” Johnson said.
One of ICON Park’s rides is called the “Orlando StarFlyer,” which is described as the “World’s Tallest Stand-Alone Swing Ride,” at 450-feet-tall.
“ICON Park formally notified the owner of the Orlando FreeFall, the SlingShot Group, demanding suspension not only of the operation of Orlando FreeFall but also the operation of Orlando SlingShot, effective immediately, until the attractions are proven to be safe by authorities,” a statement on ICON Park’s website reads.
An operating manual for the Orlando FreeFall states that the maximum passenger weight is just over 286 pounds. Sampson was 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighed 330 pounds, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The Orlando SlingShot, which passed initial inspections from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, opened in late December 2021.
The boy’s father told FOX 35 Orlando that Tyre was feeling uncomfortable when the ride began.
“When the ride took off, that’s when he was feeling uncomfortable. He was like, ‘This thing is moving.’ … That’s when he started freaking out,” Yarnell Sampson, told FOX 35 Orlando. “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.”
“We got a little closer and it was a person laying on the ground,” Montrey Williams said. “Everyone was just panicking and screaming.”
911 calls released by authorities on Monday show that one caller claimed that Sampson’s seatbelt was not secured properly.
“Okay, so was he up off the ground?,” the 911 dispatcher asked.
“No, they didn’t secure the seatbelt on him,” the 911 caller said.
An accident report claims that the seat harness was in a locked position after Tyre fell out.
“FreeFall was coming to [sic] down the tower. When the magnets engaged, the patron came out of the seat,” an employee wrote in the report. “Harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped.”
Fox News’ Rebecca Rosenberg contributed to this report.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This report has been updated to include new information about the woman accused of posing as a cousin.