Stadium deaths: What's behind the fatal falls?

CNN
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 9:32am

It happened again Sunday.

A woman leaped from the third level of the Oakland Coliseum during the Raiders football game. She survived the 40 to 50-foot drop when a Marine vet who happened to be leaving the stadium shielded her fall with his body.

But others have not been so fortunate.

Every few months this year have brought reports of a fan falling -- sometimes to his death -- at sports arenas across the country.

Is there an uptick in such incidents? Or are we just paying more attention?

"It's possible (it's happening more). But there's really no proof either way so I think we're just paying attention," said Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report. "It's covered more, there's more talk about it, there's Facebook, tweeting, more news coverage and we're definitely just talking about it more.

"I haven't really seen any statistical data that shows that people are jumping off stadiums more now in 2013 or 2010 than they were in 1960 or 1970."

The stats

The stats may be hard to come by. But there have been several incidents this year alone.

-- On November 24, the day of the woman's attempted suicide, a 48-year-old man suffered severe head injuries after falling down steps at the M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore during the Ravens game against the New York Jets.

-- On November 17, a Buffalo Bills fan slid down the rail of the upper deck of Ralph Wilson Stadium, falling some 30 feet. He injured himself and a fan he landed on.

-- On October 24, a woman fell about 20 feet from the stands at Floyd Stadium during at game at at Middle Tennessee State University

-- On August 12, a man jumped to his death falling some 85 feet from the upper level of Atlanta's Turner Field. The death was later ruled a suicide.

The reasons

So, why are they happening? There's not a one-size-fits-all answer.

To be sure, alcohol plays a large part in many of the cases.

In May 2011, a man trying to slide down a railing at Coors Field during a Colorado Rockies game fell and died. An autopsy later found marijuana in his system, as well as a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit for driving.

But some are just tragic accidents.

In July of the same year, a father fell to his death trying to catch a ball thrown to him by Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. The man lost his footing and fell over the rail at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, as his horrified young son looked on.

The solutions

The Rangers Ballpark death prompted the Texas Rangers to say they would raise the railings. That death followed an incident a year earlier at the same stadium. In July 2010, a fan fell while trying to catch a foul ball. He survived the 30-foot drop but fractured his skull.

But with alcohol factoring into many of these incidents, some have asked whether tightening alcohol sales could also help.

Don't count on many stadiums speeding up last call though.

"When you think about it, how many people go into an NFL stadium, just in one week and just in one sport" said Freeman. "Even though we have a spate of them, these things are mostly kinda rare."

-- CNN Librarian Julie In contributed to this report

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