Family of boy, 14, who fell to his death from Florida ride says stranger lied about being his cousin
The family of 14-year-old Tire Sampson, who died in a free fall from 430 feet in Florida last month, says a woman who goes around to give interviews and appear on vigils and claims to be the teen’s cousin being a stranger who has no connection with the victims.
Lawyers for Sampson’s parents said none of the family members knew the woman who identified herself as “Shay Johnson.”
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that Sampson’s mother, Nekia Dodd, has told detectives she doesn’t know who Johnson is, but so far the agency has no evidence that any crimes were committed.
Orlando Sentinel reported, citing court documents and interviews, that the woman’s real name is Lewishena Browning, and that she has an extensive record in Florida, including a pending arson attack.
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The family of Tire Sampson, who died during the Free Fall ride at Orlando’s ICON Park, says this woman who claims to be his cousin, Shay Johnson, is a complete stranger
The woman, who has been identified as Lewishena Browning, has attended vigils and protests over the 14-year-old’s death. She can be seen above with a sign saying ‘Justice for All’ at the amusement park on Tuesday
Tire, of Missouri, died last Thursday in the fall while on vacation with his family in Orlando
Tire Sampson, seen far right, fell dead from world’s highest drop ride in Orlando on Thursday night
Until this week, the 32-year-old worked as a stripper at the Flash Dancers Orlando club, but the owner of the establishment said he fired her after learning she lied about her ties to Sampson’s family.
Browning has emerged as one of the public faces of the tragedy surrounding Sampson’s death. She has been widely seen in videos and photos sobbing at a makeshift memorial in ICON Park, giving emotional interviews to reporters about the teen she believes was her cousin, and collecting thousands of signatures for a petition she started to promote the Free Fall ride. permanently shut down.
In the days after Sampson’s death on March 24, Browning appeared before news cameras and claimed that her cousin, who was six feet tall and weighed more than 300 pounds, had already been turned down for two other rides at the park. on Thursday night because he was ‘too big’ before he was allowed to free fall.
“He called me and said, ‘They let me drive. I can drive. I can drive,” she told CNN. “I didn’t know it would be the last time I spoke to him alive. He just wanted to ride and have fun.’
Browning, formerly known as Johnson, has given interviews to reporters and claimed to have spoken to her “cousin” just before his death
Browning (right) gets a hug on Tuesday at a memorial site in ICON Park. Sampson’s family says she has no affiliation with them
Browning, who until recently worked as a stripper, has collected signatures for a petition to shut down the ride
During a vigil, Browning sobbed how she allegedly had to remove her ‘cousin’ blood from the ride after his death
During a vigil and balloon release, Browning spoke sobbing about having to purge her cousin’s blood from the ride after his fatal fall.
“They left it there and I had to clean it up,” she said in tears.
William Sierer, the owner of Flash Dancers, told the Sentinel that Browning had worked for five years at his adult nightclub, under the name “Shay,” although her official name is Lewishena Browning.
Sierer said what his former employee allegedly did was “unreasonable” and that he did not want his company associated with her.
Browning has been arrested at least eight times in four different Florida counties on various charges, including driving with a revoked license, domestic violence, resisting a cop and theft.
Browning has a huge criminal record with at least eight arrests. She also has an ongoing arson case against her in Orange County (pictured in previous mugshots)
She is currently awaiting trial in Orange County on eight felony charges, including second-degree vehicular arson and criminal mischief.
Court records reviewed by DailyMail.com showed Browning was arrested in December 2021 for setting fire to a car belonging to her ex-boyfriend, a new girlfriend, after a serious breakup in August.
A preliminary accident report into the cause of Sampson’s fall has found that the locking mechanism on Tire Sampson’s seat worked, but the 350-pound teen was overweight for the ride.
Sampson, who was known to Big Tick to his friends and an up-and-coming soccer player in high school, appeared to get out of the seat just as magnets were activated to slow the ride down the descent.
Preliminary accident report shows Sampson’s seat was locked
‘When the magnets came on, the patron came out of the chair. The harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped,” reads a portion of the report filed by the operator with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Fair Rides Division investigating the accident.
His parents described him as 6’8″ and 340lbs – “he’s a big guy,” said Sampson’s father, Yarnell.
But the ride’s operation and maintenance manual dictated that the maximum weight limit the ride could bear was about 287 pounds.
‘Be careful when checking whether large guests will fit in the chairs. Check that they fit within the contours of the chair and that the bracket fits properly. If not — Don’t let this person drive,” the manual states explicitly.
It is currently unknown whether Sampson fits the contours of the chair or whether the brace fits well.
Tire was an up and coming high school football player. Despite his young age, he was six feet tall and weighed about 340 pounds
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death and no criminal charges have been filed, but the investigation remains open. The FreeFall attraction, which only opened in December 2021, is closed for now.
ICON Park said Monday it has demanded that Slingshot Group suspend another of its rides in the park, the Orlando SlingShot, “until a thorough investigation by appropriate authorities is completed and all parties are satisfied the rides are safe for the public.” the park owner said in a statement.
Among other things, detectives checked whether the shoulder brace was defective. including the ride’s mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic systems.