Report: Family of teen killed on Orlando amusement park ride has no ties to woman allegedly posing as cousin

The tragic story of the 14-year-old boy who fell to his death while riding a drop-tower attraction at an Orlando theme park this month has taken a new twist.

A woman, who local news affiliate WFTV said was claiming to be a member of the deceased teen Tire Sampson’s family, has been revealed to not in fact be related to him, according to their reporting.

teen died after falling from the FreeFall drop tower, a ride that measures 430ft (131 meters) high and travels down toward the ground at 75mph, according to Orlando’s ICON Park.

The news station claims that the woman has been acting under an alias, conducting news conferences and gathering signatures for an online petition with the name “Shay Johnson”.

The outlet also alleges that Ms Johnson was one of the organizers of a vigil held outside the Orlando theme park on Monday where dozens of mourners arrived to pay their respects to the teen.

At this vigil, Ms Johnson was quoted in an interview with ClickOrlando, where the outlet identified her as a cousin of the teen’s and described how she was allegedly collecting signatures for a petition for the Sampson family during and after the vigil. ClickOrlando later updated its story to note: “Shay Johnson, a woman claiming to be the cousin of Tire Sampson, who died in a fall from an Orlando thrill ride, has no ties to the family, the teen’s mother told the Orange County Sheriff’s Office . We have updated our articles to reflect this discrepancy.”

Mandy Duppins, who lives in Orlando and attended the vigil outside ICON Park for 14-year-old Sampson earlier this week, told The Independent that she saw the woman claim to be a member of the Sampson family while she was there with her own son.

“I was there to be supportive,” Ms Duppins said in an interview. “I saw her pretending to be his cousin of her.”

The Independent reached out to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, who confirmed that detectives who reached out to Mr Sampson’s mother about the woman posing as the family’s cousin were told by her that “she does not know who Shay Johnson is”.

“At this point, they have no evidence of a crime,” the media relations officer for the sheriff said in an emailed response.

Attorneys for the family separately confirmed to WFTV that no one within the family has any knowledge of who she is either.

TO recent accident report into Tyre’s death found that Mr Sampson’s seat belt had been locked and, based on accounts from staff statements, that he was released from his seat when magnets began slowing down the ride as riders were descending.

During an interview with CNN, Tyre’s father, Yarnell Sampson, confided that he believed his son might have been too large for the ride, saying that “my son was 6’5 (196cm), 340” lbs (154kg). “So, he’s a big guy.”

The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services posted the ride’s Operations & Maintenance Manual online, which states that the max weight for a rider is 130kg or 287 lbs.

An investigation into the malfunctioning of the ride is ongoing and, in an updated statement posted by ICON on Monday, they announced that another ride would be temporarily out of service.

The Orlando SlingShot, another attraction at the park, will be out of service “until such time as a thorough investigation by the appropriate authorities has been completed and all parties are satisfied that the rides are safe for the public”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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