Woman 'pretended to be cousin of teen who fell to from Florida ride'

Woman 'pretended to be cousin of teen who fell to from Florida ride'

Family of boy, 14, who fell to his death from 430ft ICON park drop tower says a STRANGER has been posing as his cousin and been giving interviews at vigils: Falsely claimed the teen spoke to her moments before dying

  • Family of Tyre Sampson, who fell to his death from Free Fall ride at ICON Park say woman claiming to be his cousin Shay Johnson is a stranger
  • Bogus cousin has been giving interviews and attending vigils and protests sparked by the 14-year-old’s tragic death 
  • It has been reported that Johnson’s real name is Lewishena Browning, 32, and that until this week she worked as a stripped in Orlando 
  • Browning has a criminal record and a pending arson case against her 
  • Law enforcement authorities say they have no evidence that Browning has committed any crimes by pretending to be Sampson’s cousin  

The family of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson who fell to his death from a 430-foot free-drop Florida amusement ride last month say a woman who has been going around giving interviews and appearing at vigils claiming to be the teen’s cousin is a stranger who has no connection to the victims.

Attorneys representing Sampson’s parents said none of the relatives knows the woman identifying herself as ‘Shay Johnson.’

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that Sampson’s mother, Nekia Dodd, told detectives that she does not know who Johnson is, but so far the agency has no evidence that any crimes have been 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 case. 

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Family of Tyre Sampson, who fell to his death from the Free Fall ride at Orlando’s ICON Park, say this woman claiming to be his cousin Shay Johnson is a complete stranger


The woman, who has been identified as Lewishena Browning, has been attending vigils and protests related to the 14-year-old’s death. She is seen above hold a sign demanding ‘Justice for All’ at the amusement park on Tuesday 

Tyre, from Missouri, died in the fall last Thursday while vacationing in Orlando with his family 

Tyre Sampson, seen far right, fell to his death from world’s tallest drop ride in Orlando on Thursday night 

Until this week, the 32-year-old was employed as a stripper at the club Flash Dancers Orlando, but the owner of the establishment said he terminated her after learning that she allegedly has been lying 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 video and photos sobbing at a makeshift memorial at ICON Park, giving emotional interviews to reporters about the teen she claimed was her cousin, and collecting thousands of signatures for a petition she started to have the Free Fall ride permanently shut down. 

In the days after Sampson’s death on March 24, Browning, appeared before news cameras, claiming that her cousin, who was 6-foo-5-inches tall and weighing more than 300lbs, had already been turned away from two other rides at the park on Thursday night for being ‘too big’ before being allowed on the Free Fall.  

‘He called me he say, “They let me ride. I can ride. I can ride,”‘ she told CNN. ‘I didn’t know it would be my last time talking to him alive. He just wanted to ride and have a good time.’  

Browning, known previously as Johnson, has been giving interviews to reporters, claiming to have spoken to her ‘cousin’ just before his death 

Browning (right) is getting hug at a memorial site at ICON Park on Tuesday. Sampson’s family say she has no ties to them 


Browning, who until recently worked as a stripper, has bene gathering signature for a petition to have the ride shut down 

During a vigil, Browning described through sobs how she allegedly had to clean her ‘cousin’s’ blood off the ride after his death  

During a vigil and balloon release, Browning spoke through sobs about having to clean her cousin’s blood from the ride after his deadly fall.

‘They left it there and I had to clean it up,’ she tearfully said. 

William Sierer, the owner of Flash Dancers, told the Sentinel that Browning had worked at his adult nightclub for five years, going by the name ‘Shay,’ although her legal name is Lewishena Browning.

Sierer said that what his former worker was alleged to have done was ‘unconscionable’ and he did not want his business to be associated with her.

Browning has been arrested at least eight times in four different Florida counties on a variety of charges, including driving while license revoked, domestic assault, resisting an officer and larceny.

Browning has a vast criminal record that includes at least eight arrests. She also has a pending arson case against her in Orange County (pictured in past mugshots) 

She is currently awaiting trial in Orange County on eight felony charges, including second-degree arson of a vehicle and criminal mischief.

Court records reviewed by DailyMail.com revealed that Browning was arrested in December 2021 for allegedly torching a car belonging to her ex-boyfriend new girlfriend after a bad breakup in August.

A preliminary accident report into what caused Sampson to fall to his death has found that the locking mechanism on Tyre Sampson’s seat was working, but that the 350-pound teenager may have been too heavy for the ride. 

Sampson, who was known at Big Tick to his friends and was a rising middle school football player, appeared to come out of the seat just as magnets activated to slow the ride down on its descent.

A preliminary accident report has revealed that Sampson’s seat was locked

‘When the magnets engaged, the patron came out of the seat. Harness was still in a down and locked position when the ride stopped,’ reads part of the report filed by the operator with the fair rides division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that is looking into the accident. 

His parents described him as being 6’5″ and 340lbs – ‘he’s a big guy’, said Sampson’s father, Yarnell.

But the the ride’s operations and maintenance manual dictated that the maximum weight limit the ride could tolerate was around 287 pounds.

‘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,’ the manual explicitly states.

At this stage, it is not known whether Sampson fit the contours of the seat or if the bracket fit properly.

Tyre was a rising middle school football player. Despite his young age, he was 6-foot-5 and weighing around 340lbs 

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death and no criminal charges have been filed but the investigation remains open. The FreeFall ride which only opened in December 2021 is still closed for now.

ICON Park on Monday said it has demanded that Slingshot Group suspend another of its rides at the park, the Orlando SlingShot, ‘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,’ the park landlord said in a statement.

Investigators have been looking to see whether the shoulder restraint bar was faulty among other things. including the mechanical, electrical and hydraulic systems of the ride. 

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