Conyers man falls from upper deck to death at Braves game

8:09 AM, Aug 14, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- The family of a a man that died after falling from an upper deck platform at Turner Field Monday evening want changes to safety standards.

READ | Police report of Turner Field accident

PHOTOS | Ronald Homer, victim of Turner Field fall during Braves Game

According to Atlanta Police, 30-year-old Ronald Homer of Conyers plunged about 65 feet to a private parking lot shortly after 9:00 near the start of the Braves game with the Philadelphia Phillies, which had been delayed 1 hour 48 minutes by rain.

The Braves released a statement on Tuesday afternoon: 

The Atlanta Braves extend our sincerest and heartfelt condolences to Mr. Homer's family and friends. We are saddened by this tragic incident and will continue our investigation along with the Atlanta Police Department. We will have no further comment until the investigation is complete.

The Atlanta Braves will observe a moment of silence for Mr. Homer before tonight's game.

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Homer fell over an upper deck railing and landed at the back side of the ball park.

His family says he went out to the platform to smoke and possibly lost his footing on the wet pavement.  Homer is about six feet, six inches tall. The safety guard rail is 42", the industry standard and state code.  His family feels that's not tall enough.

"It's just something that should never have happened.  I just hope nobody ever has to go through what we're going through," said his father, Ron Homer, Sr.

But families have gone through this before.  

Isaac Grubb, 20, of Lenoir City, Tenn. died after falling over a railing at the Georgia Dome during a football game between Tennessee and North Carolina State on Aug. 31, 2012. Authorities said he landed on another man seated in the lower level, and that alcohol was a factor.

A man fell about 25 feet over a staircase railing at a Georgia Tech-Miami football game on Sept. 22, 2012 and was not seriously injured.  

In May 2008, a 25-year-old Cumming, Ga. man suffered head injuries when he fell down a stairwell at Turner Field during a game against the New York Mets and later died. Police found that alcohol had factored into that accident, which the Braves said was the first non-medical fatality to happen at the ballpark.

While investigators ruled alcohol a factor in most of those accidents, Homer's family insists that wasn't the case here.

"He wasn't drinking, he doesn't do drugs.  He's just a big ole' tall, good-natured kid that loved the Braves," said his father.

The Braves issued a statement, saying: 

The Atlanta Braves extend our sincerest and heartfelt condolences to Mr. Homer's family and friends.  We are saddened by this tragic incident and will continue our investigation along with the Atlanta Police Department.

The team will hold a moment of silence at the start of Tuesday night's memory in his honor.

The autopsy report says there's nothing to indicate Homer died of anything but the injuries sustained in the fall.  A toxicology report will take several weeks to determine whether there were any drugs or alcohol in his system.

"He might have had one or two beers but no more than that," said his mother, Connie Homer. "He was tight with his money. He's a good guy."

Ms. Homer said her son was a big Braves fans who enjoyed following the team with his father. She said he attended Monday's game with two friends.

Ronald Homer graduated from Rockdale County High School in 2001 in the top ten of his class, his mom said. He was one of two children. His sister lives in Missouri.

"I'm just sick," Ms. Homer said. "We're a very close family. He was big-hearted."

Matthew Cox, an Auburn University student, said a worker told him he had seen the man standing alone at the black iron railing inside the stairwell and the next moment the man was falling to the ground.

Cox said another worker said to him, "That guy just jumped over."

The stairwell is across from the concession stand at Section 413 and overlooks the walkway the Braves players use to walk to and from their cars in a gated parking lot. The area on the ground, a brushed concrete, was cordoned off with yellow crime tape.

One hour after the accident, a Coca-Cola vending cart had been pushed onto the landing where the man had been standing. The stairwell leads directly down to the players' parking lot.

Cox said workers, who were gathered on the upper deck after the incident, said they heard the man had been running from security.

"That's not true, that is not a factual statement," said Captain Paul Guerrucci of the Atlanta Police Department when asked whether the man was being pursued.

Guerrucci, a veteran investigator, who works homicides, provided no other details of the incident. He said the case was now being handled by the medical examiner.

Police routinely patrol the concourses at Turner Field in a visible presence before, during and after games. There is also a police precinct on the service level of the field not far from the entrance to the Braves' clubhouse.

Not only do Braves' security officers stand guard on the field, but they cover every exit on different levels of the 50,000-seat stadium.

One man, who was in the Braves' players parking lot, said television crew heard the sound of the impact 100 yards away. He said first responders were doing chest compressions on the man as they wheeled him on a stretcher toward an ambulance.

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