Saturday, July 16, 2011

Increased railing height would have prevented Rangers fan's death, Mary Cummins

Firefighter and Rangers fan Shannon Stone died after falling over a railing trying to catch a baseball. The railing was 33" tall. Stone was 6'3" tall. Was the railing too low? Should minimum railing heights be increased in sports arenas?

In 1999 a UCLA student fell over a 36" balcony railing and died. l wrote an article about this railing death because the railing was not high enough. l also wrote a letter to editor in the Times about legal roof top deck railings when they ran a story about making a roof top deck with NO railings at all. Besides being an expert witness in real estate cases such as these l put a roof top deck on a property l owned so l knew the railing requirements.

The UCLA student death made everyone rethink safe railing heights. This also brought up the issue of immediate and mandatory retrofitting of older buildings. Generally retrofitting is done upon sale or transfer only.

As of January 2008 California balcony, landing, porch and deck railings for residential properties must be a minimum of 42". California has the strictest building codes in the nation. In other states it is generally 36" to 42".

If you take a look at the video footage of the fall, it appears to me that there was no way he was not going to fall over the railing. Stone was 6'3", probably had a 33" inseam. His center of mass was easily over 36" off the ground. He had momentum as he was moving toward the railing with his arm out stretched over the 33" railing bending down for the ball. As soon as his upper body was over the railing and his body hit the round railing he was almost flipped over the railing. Things were made worse by the fact that he was only standing on his forward foot with his rear leg up behind him with both arms over the railing. He is not much taller than an average man. He was not doing anything that you wouldn't normally do at a ball park.

Here are some stills which show my point. His waist is quite a bit higher than the railing.

Here is the video. Obviously it's graphic because you see him flip over the railing. You do not see him land.

City officials said that the railing was seven inches higher than required which they state is 26".  26" is the minimum between rows, not at the bottom of the aisles as in this situation. They are misquoting the 2003 International Building Code and the 1988 Uniform Building Code. The minimum height at the bottom of aisles is 42" according to the International Building Code.

I believe that if that railing were 42", he would not have fallen over it. I realize there are line of sight issues with tall railings but they can use clear material for the railings like they do at The Pond in Orange County. I bet there will be a lawsuit and the plaintiff's family will win. Hopefully these sports arenas will raise the railing heights. This tragic death could have been prevented.

UPDATE: Texas Rangers agree to raise the railing heights. Thank you!

Texas Rangers to raise rail heights in wake of deadly fan fall
By the CNN Wire Staff
July 19, 2011 4:37 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- The Texas Rangers will raise the height of the rails at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the team said Tuesday, after a 39-year-old fan fell to his death while trying to catch a ball.

"Even though all current rail heights in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington currently exceed code, the Rangers intend to raise the height of all rails in front of seating areas to the highest standard in the United States at this time," the team said in a statement.

As the rails are being refitted, the Rangers said they would take "interim" steps, such as posting new signs that will remind fans not to lean, sit on or stand against the rails. The team will also issue a warning prior to the start of each game via its public address system, the Rangers said.

The news comes in the wake of the death of Shannon Stone, a veteran firefighter and Rangers fan whose death prompted a national outpouring of condolences.

Mary Cummins of Animal Advocates is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game. Mary Cummins is also a licensed real estate appraiser in Los Angeles, California.

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