In a strange coincidence, there were two separate incidents of a fan falling from the stands of a Major League Baseball match within a week of each other; one of the men died while the other was caught by his legs by other spectators. Both men fell while reaching forward attempting to catch a ball.
The man who died, Shannon Stone, fell about seven metres after leaning over a rail approximately hip-high at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
In the other incident, Keith Carmickle fell over the rail about the same height in Chase Field, Phoenix, however he was standing on a table, effectively lowering the bar to about ankle height.
Stadium falls – not such freak accidents
Following the death of a toddler last year after a fall from LA’s Staples Center, #*IT Happens discussed how common falls from height at public venues are.
In the case of the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (where Stone Died), there have been three major incidents of serious falls reported from height since the stadium opened 17 years ago.
Mr Jake Pauls, a building use and safety consultant, commented on Fox Sports News that "There's a significant probability of this type of fall occurring at least once in the life of a stadium." Pauls has pushed for tighter restrictions in public venues, and said of Stone’s death, "for this to be the third incident since the stadium first opened says a lot."
More worryingly, in all of the cases cited in our December 2010 article, the stadium was found to be fully compliant with all building codes.
This raises a glaringly obvious question, namely: why have the building codes not changed?
Pauls says that although falls are one of the easiest dangers to mitigate, it is the fans who lobby against a requirement to raise the height of rails. The guards are kept dangerously low because fans are concerned that high barriers will obstruct their views.
As with many safety issues, these incidents bring to light the constant weighing up of differing needs, in this case, the need for public safety against the public’s desire for an exciting spectacle.