‘He had a great future ahead of him.’ Friends and teammates of teen killed in Florida theme park ride honor him in vigil

Apr 1, 2022, 10:24 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 3:17 pm

(CNN) — He was a gentle giant who always supported others. A teammate often turned mentor. A kind and funny friend, always soft-spoken.

That’s how friends and family in a Missouri vigil remembered 14-year-old Tyre Sampson, who died last Thursday when he fell off an amusement park thrill ride while on a spring break trip to Orlando.

“He was fun, he was a good dude,” Kameron Smith, who said he played football with Tyre, told CNN affiliate KMOV. “He helped me when I was in practice, when I would do something wrong, he’d help me with it and try to fix it and then when I’d mess up he’d try to encourage me.”

Tyre attended middle school in the St. Louis area but was practicing at his future high school across the river with Gregory and his players at East Saint Louis High School in East St. Louis, Illinois.

Smith’s mother, Victoria, also took notice of Sampson, who she said was always respectful and well-mannered and that, despite his tall stature, “you had to lean in to hear him cause he talked so softly.”

“As a mother, it hurts. As a football family, it hurts,” she said. “It’s a loss for all of us.”

“He had a great future ahead of him, he was so amazing, so respectful,” she added. “He was the first one to support my son when he’d get done with a practice or a drill or something like that, so I was thankful.”

Dozens of people attended the vigil under a gloomy sky Thursday evening in a park in Ferguson, Missouri, and released colorful balloons into the sky in Tyre’s honor.

“You can see the influence, at age 14, that this young man had,” Damon Cotton, who said he was a cousin of the teen, told CNN affiliate KSDK. “He truly had the support of the community all over this area.”


Rides suspended pending an investigation


Tyre died after falling from the FreeFall drop tower ride at Orlando’s ICON Park. The FreeFall takes riders up and then drops them nearly 400 feet at speeds that reach more than 75 mph, according to the park.

The FreeFall ride passed a safety inspection in December before it was allowed to open, according to a safety inspection report obtained by CNN.

Following the teen’s death, the park demanded that the Slingshot Group, the owner of the ride, suspend the FreeFall and the Orlando Slingshot, a second ride, “until the attractions are proven to be safe by authorities.”

The Slingshot Group CEO, Ritchie Armstrong, said in a statement the company suspended the operations of the two rides at ICON Park and was “fully cooperating with the authorities at the state and local levels who are investigating this tragic incident.”

“We plan on providing additional information in the coming days, as we learn more,” Armstrong said.

Late last week, attorneys Ben Crump and Bob Hilliard announced they had been hired separately by the teen’s parents and asked anyone who was on the ride at the time or witnessed the incident to contact them.

“This young man was the kind of son every parent hopes for — an honor roll student, an aspiring athlete, and a kind-hearted person who cared about others,” Crump, who was hired by Tyre’s father, said in a statement. “A fun theme park visit with his football team should not have ended in tragedy.”

Yarnell Sampson, the father, called the incident a “freak situation” and said in an interview that he would have given anything to give his son the chance to live out his dreams: to play professional football.

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

In an aerial view, freight rail cars sit in a rail yard near shipping containers on November 22, 20...
JOSH FUNK, AP Business Writer

Biden calls on Congress to head off potential rail strike

President Joe Biden is calling on Congress to pass legislation to intervene and block a railroad strike before next month’s deadline in the stalled contract talks.
22 hours ago
U.S. President Donald Trump listens as Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a news conference at...
JILL COLVIN, Associated Press

Pence calls on Trump to apologize for dinner with antisemite

Former Vice President Mike Pence says Donald Trump “demonstrated profoundly poor judgment” and is calling on him to apologize after his supposed dinner a with Holocaust-denying white nationalist.
22 hours ago
Onlookers watch as law enforcement investigates the site of a fatal shooting in a Walmart on Novemb...
Associated Press

Virginia city holds vigil to honor Walmart shooting victims

The city of Chesapeake, Virginia, has scheduled a candlelight vigil to honor the victims of the mass shooting at a Walmart store.
22 hours ago
RSV and flu...
Deidre McPhillips, CNN

Flu season intensifies, holiday gatherings could make it worse

Americans gathered for Thanksgiving last week amid a flu season that's worse than any has been in more than a decade, and experts continue to urge caution as multiple respiratory viruses circulate at high levels nationwide.
22 hours ago
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are all making news with wild up-and-down swings in value. (File...
KEN SWEET and MICHELLE CHAPMAN, The Associated Press

BlockFi files for bankruptcy, latest crypto company to fail

Cryptocurrency lender BlockFi filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, the latest casualty of the collapse of crypto exchange FTX.
22 hours ago
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 11: Election workers open mail in ballots at the Maricopa County Tabula...
JONATHAN J. COOPER, Associated Press

GOP-controlled Arizona county refuses to certify election

Republican officials in a rural Arizona county refused Monday to certify the 2022 election ahead of the deadline.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
‘He had a great future ahead of him.’ Friends and teammates of teen killed in Florida theme park ride honor him in vigil