Fan dies after fall from upper deck at Atlanta Braves game
ATLANTA (AP) - The U.S. flag flew at half-staff at Turner Field on Sunday, one day after a fan died following his fall from the upper deck into the lower-level stands during a game between the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees.
Mary Beth Hauptle, an investigator with the Fulton County Medical Examiner, identified the victim as Gregory K. Murrey, 60, of Alpharetta, Georgia. Murrey was pronounced dead at Grady Memorial Hospital.
The Braves said Sunday they are "deeply saddened" by Murrey's death.
"Greg was a valued and longtime season-ticket holder and an incredibly passionate Braves fan," the team said in a statement. "This tragic loss is felt throughout Braves Country, and the thoughts and prayers of the entire Braves organization continue to go out to his family and friends."
The fall in the seventh inning immediately followed the introduction of Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez as a pinch hitter. The game wasn't delayed while medical personnel treated the man for about 10 minutes, applying CPR before putting him on a backboard.
Lt. Charles Hampton of the Atlanta Police Department homicide unit said foul play is not suspected at this point. He said no fans were hurt in the 200-level seats where the man fell from section 401, landing close to an area where players' wives and families sit.
Braves president John Schuerholz said grief counselors have been made available to players' friends and family members who witnessed the fall.
"It's just sad and we're all dealing with the sadness and the tragedy of it for the gentleman's family and anybody who happened to witness it," Schuerholz said. "It's difficult and that's what our focus is now."
A Braves security officer blocked an Associated Press reporter from entering section 401 on Sunday without a ticket.
Braves second baseman Jace Peterson said his girlfriend was close to the spot Murrey fell.
"It was within 10 feet from her," Peterson said. "So everybody whose families were here definitely experienced some part of it. It's not good for anyone to see something like that.
"A lot of player families were right there. I heard some pretty graphic stuff. It's not something I really want to get into. It's just unfortunate."
This was the third fan death from a fall at Turner Field in eight seasons. In 2013, a fan's death was ruled a suicide; In 2008, police cited alcohol as a factor after a man died.
Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius was standing on second base, following his double, when he saw the man fall.
"I was thinking about it the whole time," Gregorius said after the Yankees' 3-1 victory. "All I can say is my condolences to the family. It was right in front of the camera in the press box. He hit the wires."
Major League Baseball said it had been in contact with the Braves and was monitoring the situation.
A sellout crowd of 49,243 was the largest of the season at Turner Field. The Braves are set to move into a new suburban stadium in 2017.
Schuerholz said now is not the time to say if the latest death at Turner Field would affect plans for the new stadium, including the height of the rails which line the bottom of each section of seats.
"We made our plans long before this event occurred," Schuerholz said. "Every facility that's getting built, there's a great deal of communication with architects and engineers and the league in terms of abiding by league standards for the industry. We certainly will do that."
Adam Staudacher and his girlfriend were returning to their seats near where Murrey fell.
Staudacher, 33, from Atlanta, said it appeared Murrey landed headfirst on a 3-foot-wide walkway between sections. He estimated 20 EMTs immediately surrounded the fan and began doing CPR, adding they treated him for "five to seven minutes" before taking him away.
Staudacher said he saw no movement from the fan.
"There were a ton of kids right there," he said. "It was a disturbing scene. Disturbing doesn't really go far enough."
MLB has said this season it is studying the issue of fan safety in the wake of several people being hurt by foul balls and flying bats. Some players have called for more protective netting around the field.
A fan died at Turner Field on Aug. 12, 2013, after falling 85 feet from a walkway on the fourth level of the stadium. Investigators from the Fulton County Medical Examiner's office later ruled that the death of Ronald Lee Homer Jr., 30, was a suicide.
In 2008, Justin Hayes, 25, died after falling down a stairwell in Atlanta during a game against the Mets. Police said alcohol contributed to his fall that caused head injuries.
Two fans died at major league games in 2011.
In Texas, a man fell about 20 feet to the ground beyond the outfield fence trying to catch a baseball tossed his way by Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. Shannon Stone, 39 and a firefighter in Brownwood, Texas, was attending the Rangers game with his young son.
Earlier that year, a 27-year-old man died after falling about 20 feet and striking his head on concrete during a Colorado Rockies home game. Witnesses told police the man was trying to slide down a staircase railing at Coors Field and lost his balance.
At Turner Field, a woman went to the Braves dugout and told catcher A.J. Pierzynski about what had occurred.
Some family members were escorted to a room near the Braves clubhouse. Many, including Atlanta outfielder Cameron Maybin's son, were crying.
"None of our family guys got hurt other than there were some young children there that got to see stuff that's not real nice," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.