Family of float fatality victims mourn as city prepares for safety meeting

Vondra is still grappling to comprehend the loss of her husband, Joseph Sampson. Sampson died...
Vondra is still grappling to comprehend the loss of her husband, Joseph Sampson. Sampson died Saturday evening, struck and killed by Endymion float number 14 near Canal Street and Galvez Street.(Family)
Published: Feb. 27, 2020 at 5:37 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Just before sunset, Wednesday, Joseph Sampson's loved ones release blue balloons, speckling the sky with his favorite color.

“I just want him back but I know I can’t have him back,” said Sampson’s daughter Bridget Mack.

Mack met dozens of her father’s family and friends near Canal and Galvez to honor his life.

“It’s kind of hard coming back to the same location that it happened,” said family friend Bronson Gettridge.

An Endymion float struck and killed Sampson, Saturday evening, after family members say he lost his balance and fell.

“I was supposed to be here with him and and then this. He’s going to be greatly missed,” Sampson’s sister Lisa Bolden said.

As loved ones continue to mourn Sampson’s death, New Orleans Krewes and City leaders prepare to meet.

“It’s a tragedy because it could have been avoided, we have all kinds of safety things to do, and we comply, but it’s a tragedy,” said Endymion rider Bert Verdigets.

We spoke to Endymion riders, Wednesday, as they filed through the float den, collecting unused throws. Less than half of the parade’s floats finished rolling the route.

“They are trying to do their best to accommodate the members. Hopefully, something good will come from this,” Verdigets said.

It was the second death of Carnival 2020. The first happened at Magazine and Valence. Family says Geraldine Carmouche was killed trying to cross a tandem float.

Two Thoth riders fell from floats but are expected to recover.

“It’s horrible that it takes a tragedy for us to really address these things but that’s what happens,” said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser.

Nungesser says he plans to attend the scheduled meeting between city leaders and krewe captains, Thursday.

An Endymion rider for 15 years, he says he's heard suggestions in the past, modifications like raising the sides of floats to keep riders from falling, implementing a buffer beside floats to keep spectators from getting too close and installing netting to prevent people from crossing tandem floats.

“I think there’s a lot of good ideas out there that we need to put our heads together and see what we can do to correct some of the things that may make a difference and save some lives,” Nungesser explained.

Though it’s too late for Joseph Sampson, his loved ones hope something is done to prevent tragedies like his.

FOX 8 spoke to one Endymion rider who says he’s noticed fewer police officers along the route and hopes the city will consider an increased presence.

Sampson’s loved ones suggested chaperones accompany each float to ensure no one gets too close.

Thursday’s meeting is not open to the public.

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