The 39-year-old firefighter who died after falling from the stands as he attempted to catch a ball at a Texas Rangers game was laid to rest on Monday. It was reported that hundreds attended his funeral in central Texas and thousands more lined the street of the small town, watching as a fire truck led the funeral possession to the cemetery.
His is a story of fun at a baseball game that turned tragic: all over a foul baseball. The man was attending the game at the Ballpark of Arlington with his 6-year-old son on Thursday night. At one point in the game, he yelled out and asked outfielder Josh Hamilton to throw the next foul ball his way. Hamilton compiled, and the 39-year-old firefighter stretched over the railing to catch the ball. He fell 20 feet to the ground, head first. He was conscious immediately after the fall, asking authorities to check on his 6-year-old son who remained in the stands. However, as he was being transported to the hospital via ambulance he went into cardiac arrest and ultimately died from blunt force trauma.
Unfortunately, fans being severely injured or dying from falls in ballparks and sports arenas across the nation are not as uncommon as one would hope. Just last year, another fan at the Ballpark of Arlington fell from the second deck into the seats below; when the ballpark first opened in the mid-90s, a fan fractured her neck after falling 35 feet out of the stands.
Building codes require the railings to be 26 inches high — the one in the outfield was 33 inches, and railings in the upper deck are 46 inches high. In addition, the ballpark has a number of warning signs throughout the stands. But one design expert argued that the rails are not high enough, pointing out, “If you lean up against one of these rails, you’re risking your life. Most people don’t know the risk they are assuming. You can get jostled for some other reason, lose your balance and topple over.”
Earlier this year, a fan at a Colorado Rockies game died after falling over a guardrail at Coors Field. And just last fall a 2-year-old at a Lakers game in the Staples Center fell over a guardrail and died. These incidents are just two of a dozen more.
With prior tragedies at the Rangers’ stadium and other sports arenas, the question is whether the Ballpark of Arlington and other major league parks should be held responsible in wrongful death cases such as these?
Source: FoxSports.com, “Fan falls alarmingly common,” 7/11/11.