ST. LOUIS — Friends and family have begun to wrap their heads around the loss of a St. Louis teen who died after falling from an amusement park ride in Orlando.
Officials with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said they responded to reports of someone who fell from the free-fall ride at ICON Park, one of the area’s most popular attractions, just before 11 p.m. on Thursday.
Tyre Sampson, 14, was on spring break visiting the park with a friend’s family.
He was known as “Big Tick.”
Arnaud Jones had spent the last two years coaching Sampson through "Bad Boyz", a nationally ranked youth program based out of St. Louis city. Seeing through his passion for football.
"He would respect and take in what I’m giving him and I knew he had a bright future because he was just a great kid,” Jones said.
The eighth-grader had been gearing up to play at East St. Louis High School in the fall with a goal to eventually help his family.
His coach described him as a gentle giant.
"He was very mild-mannered. Light spoken," said Jones. "Yes sir, yes ma’am to everything. Honor roll student. All A's. I never had any problems out of him.”
The Orange County Sheriff's Office will investigate whether or not what happened on the ride, which opened last year, was intentional or accidental.
The safety of the ride itself is being investigated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.
"Based on all of our preliminary investigation and information, it appears to be a terrible tragedy but our investigation is still open,” Sheriff John Mina said in a press conference Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, those back home have begun to heal.
"When you got a good kid that like I said straight-A student, never did anything wrong. Never got in trouble. You kind of question it like, why him. You know but I tell them to just stay strong and to keep his name alive," Jones said.
The operator of the ride, the SlingShot Group, released the following statement:
“We are heartbroken with the incident that took the life of one of our guests. We extend our condolences and deepest sympathy to his family and friends. We are working with the Sheriff’s Office and ride officials on a full investigation. The Orlando FreeFall will be closed until further notice.”