The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

August 14, 2013

Despite safety measures, stadium falls occur

ATHENS — Larry Bowman stood at the Turner Field railing where a fan had fallen to his death one night earlier, wondering how it could have happened.

"Look how high it is," Bowman said Tuesday, placing his hand on the bar atop the 42-inch railing. "It's almost chest high. You would have to ... well, I don't know."

No matter how many safety measures are in place at stadiums and arenas, experts say there's no way to totally prevent falls like the one that killed a Braves fan at a game in Atlanta. Ronald Lee Homer Jr. fell 85 feet to his death Monday night after tumbling over the fourth-level railing.

"It's sad to say someone could lose their life and not yield some lesson for the rest of us, but this one is pretty close based on the initial reports," said Steve Adelman, an attorney who is considered an authority on venue safety and security. "It's just a tragedy."

Homer's death was the third at an Atlanta stadium in the past year. Since 2003, there have been more than two dozen cases of fans falling at stadiums across the United States, according to the Institute for the Study of Sports Incidents.

But that doesn't mean the stadiums are unsafe, said Alana Penza, director of the institute, which is part of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security, based at the University of Southern Mississippi.

"The reality is, you have to think about how many of these incidents actually happen at a venue. Not that many," Penza said. "They're devastating when they do happen, but they're not a lot. You do the best to keep yourself safe, but you can't always forecast what's going to happen."

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