ATLANTA (AP) — Lifetime Atlanta Braves fan Ronald Lee Homer Jr. knew the stadium where he fell to his death well. He attended three or four games a month at Turner Field and watched as many televised games as he could, his father said. He always had on a Braves hat.
On Monday night, Homer, 30, was waiting out a rain delay in a fourth-level smoking area with a 42-inch railing that would have come up to the 6-foot-6 fan's midsection. He'd told his mother during a phone conversation that the rain was letting up and he was about to head to his seat for the game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Shortly afterward, he fell about 85 feet into a parking lot.
"He said 'I love you mom, and I said 'I love you too' and that was it," his mother, Connie Homer, told The Associated Press on Tuesday morning.
While it's not clear exactly why he fell, police say the death around 8:30 appears to have been an accident and didn't involve foul play. At least four witnesses told police that no one else was standing near him when he fell.
A police report released Tuesday says Homer was unconscious and wasn't breathing when paramedics arrived. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital. Toxicology tests were pending, but the medical examiner says he died from injuries in the fall.
The frequency of such falls around the country — including two others in Atlanta in the past year — raises the question of whether stadiums are safe enough. The International Building Code, which is the accepted industry standard, has a minimum height requirement of 42 inches for guard rails that act as protective barriers in open-sided areas such as walkways or smoking platforms. Railings in front of seated areas must be 26 inches.
Before Tuesday night's game between the Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field, the team showed a picture of Homer on the scoreboard and observed a moment of silence.
"We are saddened by this tragic incident and will continue our investigation along with the Atlanta Police Department," Braves spokeswoman Beth Marshall said. She declined to discuss the circumstances of the death or whether the team was planning safety changes.
Connie Homer said her son followed the team through losing seasons as well as winning ones.
"It didn't matter if they were winning, losing or what — he's been a Braves fan forever," she said.
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