According to an operating manual for the FreeFall drop tower ride, the weight limit for the ride was 130 kg, or about 287 pounds. Yarnell Sampson, Sampson’s father, said the 14-year-old weighed about 325 pounds.
The operation manual’s rider walkthrough guide noted the following instructions for larger guests:
“Limitation: Large people: Be careful when seeing if large guests fit into the seats. Check that they fit within the contours of the seat and the bracket fits properly. If this is not so – Do not let this person ride.”
Lawyers for the family want to know if negligence about the 14-year-old’s size contributed to his tragic death.
“This young man, he was athletic and he was big. He had no way of knowing,” said the Texas attorney, Bob Hilliard, who represents Tyre’s mother, Nekia Dodd, in an interview Saturday. “This is going to be an issue of a lack of supervision and lack of training. A straight-up negligence case.”
Investigators this past weekend continued to examine what happened Thursday night when the 14-year-old dropped out of his seat from a 430-foot, free-fall amusement park ride which is taller than the Statue of Liberty.
Tyre came out of the seat when the ride’s magnets engaged, according to an initial accident report. The ride’s harness was “still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped,” the report said.
Records revealed the ride had passed a safety inspection in December. The operator listed in the accident report had also gone through operation training for the ride in February, an employee training record showed.
The popular civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is working with Hilliard and represents Tyre’s father, said the family is “shocked and heartbroken at the loss of their son.”
“This young man was the kind of son everyone hopes for — an honor roll student, an aspiring athlete, and a kind-hearted person who cared about others,” Crump said in a statement Saturday.
Sampson ‘s family said the the 14-year-old was a straight-A student who had hopes of playing football for the East St. Louis Flyers this fall. He also played for Bad Boyz, which is a nationally ranked youth football program based in St. Louis.
He was a student at the City Garden Montessori School in St. Louis.