Posted by: Bob Gorman | August 14, 2013

Fatalities Update, 2008-present

FATALITIES UPDATE

2008

On April 15, 2008, New York Mets’ fan Antonio Nararainsami, 36, fell to his death at Shea Stadium when he slipped off a stationary escalator handrail he was attempting to slide down.  According to police, Nararainsami was leaving the game with his daughters and a cousin about 10:00 p.m. when he fell and landed on the escalator at the loge level over 30 feet below.   He was taken to New York Hospital Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

Anthony Giraudo, 18, and Taylor Buckley, 18, got into a fight outside the gates as they were leaving a San Francisco Giants game at A.T. & T. Park about 9:45 p.m. on May 9, 2008.  Buckley allegedly punched Giraudo on the side of his face, knocking him to the ground.  Giraudo’s head striking the pavement caused “traumatic brain injury.”  When the victim died after being removed from life support the next day, Buckley was arrested and charged with “involuntary manslaughter.”  Buckley is scheduled for trial in 2010.

During the 8th inning of an Atlanta Braves-New York Mets game on May 21, 2008, Justin Hayes, 25, was attempting to slide down the handrails of the club-level stairways behind the home plate area of Atlanta’s Turner Field when he slipped and fell about 50 to 60 feet, striking both the railing and the concrete field-level landing below.  He was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital where he died a short while later of head injuries.

Deshun Glover, 8, was fatally electrocuted while standing in a rain puddle near a light pole at the baseball fields in Reid Park, Tucson, Arizona, on the evening of July 25, 2008.  Initially thinking the child had been struck by lightning, an investigation later showed that he was killed by “a faulty circuit breaker” and a “ground fault” resulting from an improperly insulated splice in a steel junction box.

Playing catch before a game in Arnold, Missouri, on July 31, 2008, 13-year-old Tanner Boynton glanced away momentarily and was struck on the neck below his ear.  The blow knocked him unconscious.  A coach administered CPR before an ambulance arrived and took him to a local hospital.  He died there about 2:30 p.m. the next day.

Alberto Patino, 11, was struck on the chest by a ball during an after-school game in Compton, California, on September 12, 2008.  “He had trouble breathing and then he collapsed,” reported the assistant coroner.   The youngster had complained of chest pains shortly before the accident.  He was administered CPR before being taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

2009

A fight shortly after an Angels game in Anaheim on April 6, 2009, resulted in the death of Brian Powers, 27.  He was found on the fourth level of the right-field pavilion stairwell “unconscious and bleeding from the head.”  He was rushed to an area hospital where he died two days later.  According to witnesses, Powers was “fighting with another man when a third man came from behind and punched the victim’s head, causing him to fall and hit his head on a concrete step.”  Surveillance photos of the two assailants were released and the men turned themselves in for questioning.

Little League baseball coach Jacques Lee died of heart failure on a ball field in Hesperia, California, on April 9, 2009.

Harry Kalas, 73, Hall-of-Fame broadcaster for the Philadelphia Phillies, died from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease shortly before the start of a game in Washington Nationals ballpark on April 13, 2009.  He was found unconscious in the broadcast booth about 12:20 p.m. and was rushed to  George Washington University Medical Center where he died about an hour later.

Jonathan M. Sikora, 39, collapsed in the outfield during a game at Trevor Park in Yonkers, New York, on April 19, 2009.  Sikora, who had a history of heart problems, had run the bases just prior to taking his position on the field.  He died before reaching an area hospital.  His cardiologist later said the victim suffered from “severe heart disease.”

In a high school game in Lebanon, Missouri, 16-year-old Patrick Clegg from Waynesville High School, was struck on the back of the head just below the helmet on the evening of April 21, 2009.  The blow to the brain stem caused swelling of the brain.  He remained in a coma on a respirator until he was declared brain dead on April 23.  He was taken off the respirator the following day.

On April 28, 2009, Jeff Taylor, Sr., 48, a professor at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, was pitching batting practice to his son Jeff, Jr., on the school’s ball field when his son hit a line drive that struck the elder Taylor on “the lower jaw or neck.”  He fell, tried to rise, but then collapsed.  His son and an EMS crew from the university administered CPR, but the injured man was pronounced dead on arrival at Lynchburg General Hospital.

Nine-year-old Eliyahu Daddah was struck on the neck by a ball batted by his brother while the two were playing in the backyard of their home in Long Branch, New Jersey, on May 1, 2009.  His 10-year-old brother was using an aluminum bat at the time.  The local medical examiner later said the youngster died from “blunt force trauma.”

Chelal Gross-Matos, 12, and Jonathan Colson, 11, were struck by lightning while playing catch shortly after a storm-cancelled Little League game in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, on June 3, 2009.  According to witnesses, the bolt of lightning hit Gross-Matos directly then “transferred to the other boy.”  CPR was administered and both youngsters were rushed to a local hospital where Gross-Matos was pronounced dead.  Colson remained comatose for nearly a month before making a slow recovery that included relearning how to open his eyes, eat, talk, and walk.  He was finally sent home more than three months later.

A fight between two groups of men which began over seats in Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park led to the beating death of David Sale, Jr., 22, in the parking lot of McFadden’s Pub on July 25, 2009.  Sale was attending a bachelor party with friends when an argument broke out with a group of men from the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia.  The disagreement flared again inside McFadden’s, which is connected to the ballpark.  After the two groups were ejected from the restaurant, a brawl ensued in the adjacent parking lot.  Three assailants allegedly beat Sales to the ground.   A final kick to the victim’s neck resulted in “a tear to Sale’s left vertebral artery in the neck that caused massive bleeding into his brain and spinal column.”  One witness described the fatal blow as a “brutal kick, as if it was a football and he was attempting to punt my friend’s face.”  Sales also suffered from injuries that “caused significant internal bleeding in his liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, and bowel.”  Sale died about an hour later at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital from “multiple blunt-force trauma injuries and hemorrhaging of the brain and spinal column.”  The assailant who allegedly kicked Sale “in the head and neck area at the end of the melee when he was down on his hands and knees in a barely conscious state” was charged with first-degree murder.  Two others were charged with third-degree murder and “conspiracy to commit a homicide.”

On July 29, 2009, Jeff Wood, 15, arrived for practice with the Valley High School baseball team in Orderville, UT, complaining of a side ache.  After sitting out a short while, he assumed his position in center field to shag flies.  A line drive struck him on the side, causing him to collapse on the field.  An off-duty sheriff’s deputy performed CPR within 30 seconds after the youngster collapsed.  He was rushed to Kane County Hospital in Kanab, UT, where attempts to revive him were not successful.  An autopsy did not reveal the cause of death.

2010

Thirteen-year-old Brady Lee Frazier, St. Regis Falls, New York, died May 8, four days after a line drive struck him on the head during baseball practice at St. Regis Falls Central School.

During batting practice at Miller Park, Milwaukee, on April 25, Stuart Springstube, 51, fell over a railing while reaching for a batted ball.  The 15-foot fall to the ground below resulted in the fan’s death from a brain hemorrhage on May 14.

Andrew Cohn, 15, covering first base for his Camden County, Georgia, recreational league team during a May 15 game in Jacksonville, Florida, died shortly after colliding with a base runner.  Cohn was in the act of catching the ball when the runner crashed in to him, knocking them both to the ground.  The youngster attempted to rise, but fell back down.  When he stopped breathing, CPR was performed.  He was pronounced dead on arrival at an area hospital.

Wendy Whitehead, 39, was attending an independent United League Baseball game between the San Angelo, Texas, Colts and the Amarillo, Texas, Dillas on the evening of June 11 in San Angelo.  She and her husband were seated behind the third base dugout near the end of the protective screening.  In the bottom of the 8th inning, a Colts batter hit a line drive foul that curved around the screening and struck Whitehead in the throat.  Her husband, a vascular surgeon, attempted to resuscitate her.  She was rushed to a local hospital where she was placed on life support.  She died the following day.

Douglas Johnson, 54, from Greensburg, PA, and a friend were viewing the Cleveland Indians “wall of fame” in Gateway Plaza before an Indians game on June 12 when a 400 pound  inflatable slide being used by children in an adjacent area fell on the two of them.   Johnson, suffering from severe back pains and cuts to his arms and legs, was examined by Indians medical personnel before being taken to the Cleveland Clinic.  He was treated for several broken bones in his back, then returned to Greensburg two days later.  On June 20, Johnson suddenly collapsed at home and was rushed to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead three hours later.  An autopsy revealed that Johnson had died from a blood clot in his lung caused by the slide falling on him.

Thomas Adams, 16, was catching during practice in the gym of the Blessed Sacrament School in Paterson, NJ, on December 3 when he was struck on the chest by a pitched ball.  Although he was wearing a chest protector, the blow caused him to collapse moments after throwing the ball back to the pitcher.  According to the boy’s uncle, he stood and said, “I can’t breathe” before he collapsed.  Paramedics were unable to revive him and he was transported to the local hospital where he died.  Cause of death was speculated to be commotio cordis.

2011

Robert Seamans, 27, died on May 25, a day after he fell and struck his head while sliding down a staircase railing in the outfield seating area of Coors Field known as the Rockpile.

During a Little League game in Winslow, AZ, on May 31, 13-year-old Hayden Walton was struck over the heart by a foul tip off his bat during a bunt attempt. According to one witness, “he took an inside pitch right in the chest.  After that he took two steps to first base and collapsed.”  He was rushed to a local hospital, but died the next day.

Just after completing his first practice with the Seacoast Mavericks of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League in Rochester, NH, on June 6, Adam Keenan, 20, suddenly went into cardiac arrest and collapsed.  CPR was performed and he was rushed to an area hospital, but attempts to revive him failed.  An autopsy revealed that the young man had an enlarged heart.

Austin Earl Bowman, 13, was at bat during a Babe Ruth League game in Gillette, WY, on the evening of June 7 when an errant pitch struck him on the left side of his batting helmet near the temple.  He was air-lifted to the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper, but died of a subdural hematoma on June 8, twelve hours after the beaning.

Shortly after an American Legion game in Helena, MT, on June 16, the Rev. Wayne A. Fisher, 78, leaned against a protective net that was not attached at the bottom and fell face-first nearly nine feet onto the dugout steps below.  He was unconscious for several minutes, but regained consciousness before being taken to an area hospital.  He was later airlifted to a hospital in Great Falls, where he died on June 28 from injuries sustained in the fall.

During the second inning of a Texas Rangers game in Arlington on the evening of July 7, fan Shannon Stone, 39, fell over the railing in the left field lower reserve seating area while attempting to catch a ball tossed into the stands by Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton.  Stone fell headfirst through the gap between the seats and the outfield wall, landing on the ground about 20 feet below.  Although conscious when first reached by emergency personnel, Stone died on the way to the hospital.

On October 5, 2011, Gregory Green, 17, was pitching batting practice to a teammate at Ribault High School in Jacksonville, FL, when a line drive ricocheted off the metal frame of the protective screening and struck Green on the head as he was ducking to get out of the way.  He was rushed to a local hospital where he died on October 9, three days after the accident.

University of Rhode Island pitcher, Joseph Ciancola, 20, collapsed suddenly after a pre-season workout.  He was rushed to an area hospital where he died three days later.  An autopsy performed the following week was inconclusive as to cause of death.   Team officials said that Ciancola did not appear to be ill at any time during the workout.

2012

On August 16, 2012, an unidentified male fan collapsed during the bottom of the seventh inning of a Chicago White Sox -Toronto Blue Jays game in Toronto.  The game was halted for several minutes while the fan was given CPR and taken from the Rogers Centre to an area hospital.  Police announced after the game that the fan had died in the hospital of suspected cardiac arrest.

On June 3, 2012, East Carolina University fan Lazarus King “Kay” Stallings III, 68, was struck in the face by a line drive foul as he sat in the stands along the first base side of Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill, NC, during an NCAA regional playoff game between the University of North Carolina and St. John’s University.  Stallings lost his right eye and was hospitalized of and on during the summer, but appeared to be recovering when in early September he was readmitted to the University of North Carolina Hospitals.  He died September 13 of a brain aneurysm resulting from the initial injury.

2013

Maureen Oleskiewicz, 28, and her brother Martin were eating hot dogs in Wrigley Field’s  right field bleachers shortly before the start of a Chicago Cubs-Cincinnati Reds game on May 5, 2013, when she suddenly fell to the ground without any indication she was in distress.  When emergency medical personnel were unable to revive her, she was rushed to an area hospital.  She was kept alive until the morning of May 7 so that her organs could be donated.  An autopsy by the Cook County medical examiner’s office revealed that she died from a lack of oxygen to the brain caused by choking on a hot dog.  Alcohol consumption was determined to be a contributing factor.

Eight-year-old Dylan Williams was injured on July 16, 2013, when a thrown ball struck the youngster on the right side of his head and neck during practice in Union City, IN.  He was rushed to a local hospital before being transferred to one in Indianapolis.  He died on July 17 from “blunt force trauma.”

Just before the start of an Atlanta Braves-Philadelphia Phillies game on the night of August 12, 2013, Ronald Homer, 30, fell over the 42-inch high upper deck railing at Turner Field 85 feet to the players’ parking lot below.  The unconscious man was rushed to an area hospital where he died from blunt force trauma shortly after arriving.

2014

Alex Newsome, 11, was pitching batting practice at his middle school in Wilmington, NC, on the afternoon of April 11, 2014, when a line drive struck him on the head.   Although the young left-hander was pitching behind a protective screen, his delivery caused him to lean outside the netting.  CPR was performed on the youngster until an ambulance arrived.  He was transported to an area hospital where he died a little after 9:00 p.m. that evening.


Responses

  1. Thanks for doing this project. I’m not sure whether it gives practicable information or not though…as a mother of a baseball-obsessed 8 year old, I am terrified by all the anecdotes about fatalities and injuries. Considering how many kids play, the risk seems tiny, and yet if it were your child….
    I bought a chest protector for my son after today’s news about a boy in AZ who died of a chest injury, but shortly after I read that they are basically useless. Softer baseballs have been suggested, but I doubt much study has been done on that. If a regular ball thrown as slowly as 40 MPH can be fatal, would a softer ball be protection? I mean, it’s not like you can play with a Nerf ball. I guess it would be interesting and instructive to know how many kids die of chest injuries outside of baseball, for comparison.
    (Sigh)

    • Annie,

      First, let me say up front that I am not a physician. What knowledge I have about the issue of baseball safety has come from the readings I have done in my historical research on baseball-related fatalities. Therefore, my opinions are those of an informed layperson, not a medical expert.

      There are a number of recent studies on the issue of safety baseballs and chest protectors and the prevention or decrease in incidents of commotio cordis. A 2001 study of safety baseballs published in the May 2002 issue of the journal Pediatrics (“Reduced Risk of Sudden Death from Chest Wall Blows (Commotio Cordis) with Safety Baseballs,” Mark S. Link, et al, pp. 873-877) concluded that “safety baseballs reduced (but did not abolish) the risk of sudden cardiac death. More universal use of these safety baseballs may decrease the risk of sudden death on the playing field for young athletes.” (This study, I might add, was based on an animal model using young pigs, not a human one.)

      Similarly, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concerning safety baseballs and faceguards (“Evaluation of Safety Baseballs and Faceguards for Prevention of Injuries in Youth Baseball,” Stephen W. Marshall, et. al, February 5, 2003, pp. 568-574) concluded that “Reduced-impact balls and faceguards were associated with a reduced risk of injury in youth baseball. These findings support increased usage of these items; however, it should be noted that the absolute incidence of injury in youth baseball is low and that these equipment items do not prevent all injuries.”

      The news on chest protectors has been much less encouraging. A study on commercially-available chest protectors reported in The American Journal of Cardiology (Joseph J. Doerer, et. al, March 15, 2007, pp. 857-859) concluded “that almost 40% of commotio cordis deaths in young competitive athletes occurred in the presence of chest barriers raises the critical consideration of whether chest protectors that effectively abolish the risk for commotio cordis can be manufactured. Improvements in the design and composition of chest protectors are necessary to enhance the safety of the athletic field for our youth.”

      Finally, commotio cordis fatalities are not just a baseball problem. Other sports, including football, hockey, and lacrosse, have had their share of commotio cordis deaths as well. And while it is an event that happens mainly to children under 18, my research has uncovered a number of adult fatalities from blows to the heart.

  2. Dear Bob
    Thank you for this interesting research.
    I live in Norwood South Australia and at our local suburban Norwood Oval (used for Australian Rules Football – lately called Coopers Stadium !) Baseball is currently being played during the summer months. On two sides of the small Oval houses abut the Oval (Beulah Road & Osmond Terrace); on the third side a pavement and laneway (Woods Street) separate the Oval from a full row of heritage housing; on the fourth side is a Memoroial Garden and the main roadway, the Norwood Parade.

    This venue has no banking stands as we have sen in USA,only two Victorian / Edwardian styled stands for spectators. We receive wayward balls from the Oval on Osmond Terrace, Woods Street and in the Memorial Gardens & Parade. This is a densely populated area and we are very concerned about the number of wayward balls reaching us. We feel certain it is a matter of time before an unsuspecting pedestrian or homeowner is injured. While collecting signatures requesting Baseball be played in an appropriate Stadium, a ball landed 12 inches from my foot and with such force I realised that had it hit my head I would not be here.
    Please could you help me with the following questions ?
    1.What are the normal precautions taken by Baseball Stadiums to ensure the safety of people inside the Stadium ?
    2.Are their any regulations re-construction of a Baseball stadium that are required to limit wayward balls into the surrounding houses?
    3.Are Stadium generally located near densely populated areas ?
    4.What is the height of the surrounding walls / stands please in Baseball Stadiums?

    We were promised that no balls would go over the Sir Edwin Smith Stand because a) wooden bats would be used and b) it was impossible with the reconfigured hitting point. Yet balls sailed over the stand out onto the Parade and Memorial Gardens. Also, that Woods Street would receive no balls, but the balls now land in front gardens rather than back gardens.
    Our homes and cars are being damaged already but we are fearful of more serious injury not only outside the Oval but also in the unnetted Oval stands.
    Can you advise ?
    Can you supply any information or refer us to information sources please ?
    kindest regards
    Maggie

    • Dear Maggie,
      After looking at a few pictures and a Youtube video of your stadium that are posted on the Internet, I can certainly understand the problem you are having. With what short fencing there is around the playing field, there’s really nothing to stop the flight of the ball. Is there even a tall backstop behind home plate? It didn’t look like it. It appeared that most of the fans are sitting close to the field with only short fences in front of them. If that is correct, you must have a substantial amount of fan injuries every season.
      It also looked like some of the houses I saw in the background are quite close to the playing area, with only rather short walls/fences to stop any hard-hit balls. Balls must strike these houses or land in yards all the time.
      Concerning conditions in the U.S., there are a large number of minor and major league stadiums that are located in densely populated urban areas. Most of the major league parks are behemoths, so large that it is impossible to hit a ball out of them. However, there are two older major league stadiums – Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago – which are smaller. They both have housing and businesses surrounding them. In both parks, homerun balls regularly leave the stadium. That is especially true of Wrigley Field.
      At Fenway, the left field wall is just 310 feet from home plate. One thing they did, though, is build a large wall (the Green Monster) that does help keep some balls in the stadium. But some hard-hit balls do sail over the wall and land in the street outside the park. At Wrigley, balls leaving the stadium are so common that fans will stand in the street during a game to try and get those that land there.
      It is somewhat different with our minor league parks. All are considerably smaller than the major league ones and most do not have seating surrounding the outfield walls, which would add depth to the stadium. As a result, it is much easier for a ball to be hit out of a minor league stadium.
      While our major and minor league parks do have outfield walls or fences, there is no requirement as to how tall they have to be. But if you look at photos of our stadiums, you’ll see that some outfield walls/fences are quite high indeed. They are often built tall to prevent “cheap” homeruns. These barriers also stop most balls from leaving the playing field.
      While some have expressed concern about the danger of balls that do leave the stadium, most seem to accept the fact that balls will sometimes land in the streets or strike a building or car. As far as I know, there is no move afoot to do anything about it.
      Stadiums in the U.S. are required to provide only minimal protection for fans. All have high screens behind home plate that usually run down the first and third base lines to the beginning of the dugouts. While some minor league stadiums do have protective screening all the way down the lines to first and third base, there is no requirement that they do so. Consequently, we suffer many serious injuries every year from foul balls and bats entering the seating area. Baseball here has long been protected from liability by a legal doctrine known as “assumption of risk” (sometimes referred to as “the baseball rule”). Assumption of risk is based on the belief that everyone knows that balls and bats frequently fly into the stands and that they can cause serious injury, so if one chooses to sit in an unprotected area, he/she has assumed the risk involved in sitting there.
      I hope this information is of use to you.
      Sincerely,
      Bob Gorman


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