Fall kills local Braves fan at game
ATLANTA — The fan who fell off an upper level platform at Turner Field during Monday night’s Atlanta Braves game was a lifelong fan of the home team and a Conyers resident.
Ronald Lee Homer Jr., 30, fell about 65 feet onto the players' parking lot only moments after speaking with his mother over the phone. He finished that conversation using the same valediction with which he ended all their calls.
"He said 'I love you mom,' and I said 'I love you, too' and that was it," his mother, Connie Homer, said in an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday morning.
The AP reported Ronald Homer called his mother, and said the rain was starting to let up and he was preparing to go back in the stadium for the Braves game against the Philadelphia Phillies. At least four witnesses told police that no one else was standing near him when he fell over a fourthlevel railing.
"It's one of those devastating things," said Homer's uncle, Robert Homer.
Homer was a 2001 graduate of Rockdale County High School where he had been the captain of the basketball team, said his uncle. Ron was a sports fanatic, following everything from baseball to NASCAR and mixed martial arts.
He recevied an academic scholarship to study sports medicine at Emory University's Oxford College, said his uncle.
In recent years, after a brief marriage and divorce, he was living at home with his parents and working for various landscaping jobs and companies. But he had extended family around him — he and his father were close and the Homers have roots in Rockdale
Ronald Homer, a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan and Conyers resident, pictured with his girlfriend, fell about 65 feet to his death at Turner Field Monday night. going back seven generations. Ron had also recently started a new relationship. "He seemed like he was on the right path to a nice romance," said Robert.
Ron Homer was reportedly the second spectator to die from falling off upper levels in the last five years at Turner Field. In 2008, a 25-year-old Cumming man fell 150 feet onto the field and died during a Braves-Mets game.
"There's no excuse," said Robert Homer about the facilities at Turner Field. "There's got to be something to protect the patrons ... I'm not going to let this one be swept under the rug."
Police said the fall, that occurred around 8:30 p.m., appears to have been an accident and there was no indication of foul play. An incident report released Tuesday says Homer was unconscious and wasn't breathing when paramedics arrived. He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
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 Braves played the Philadelphia Phillies at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday at Turner Field. A team spokeswoman declined to comment on the circumstances of the death or whether safety changes were being made.
"We are saddened by this tragic incident and will continue our investigation along with the Atlanta Police Department," Braves spokeswoman Beth Marshall said in a statement. She added that the team would observe a moment of silence before Tuesday evening's game
Connie Homer said her 6-foot6 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.
Homer, who always wore a Braves baseball hat, went to three or four games a month and watched every game that was televised, his father Ronald Homer Sr. said.
"This this is going to hurt us for the rest of our life," he said. "When you lose a kid, not only your kid but your best friend, too, it's bad."
"He was big-hearted, just a great guy, very respectful," his mother said.
Neither the team nor the police have said how high the railing is in the area of the stadium where Homer fell. There were no cameras in the area.
Smoking is allowed in the area, which overlooks a parking lot used by Braves players. Though Connie Homer doesn't know details of how her son fell, she said he was a smoker.
Connie Homer said she's heard nothing from authorities as to what might have caused her son to fall.
"They called us up to the hospital and they told us he was gone," she said. "The whole thing is surreal."
An autopsy was planned for Tuesday.
Monday's accident wasn't the first fatal fall by a fan at Turner Field, and two other people fell from heights at the city's pro football stadium in the last year.
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 involved. A man fell about 25 feet over a staircase railing at a Georgia Tech-Miami football game in the Georgia Dome 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 between the Braves and the New York Mets and later died. Police found that alcohol was involved. The Braves have said the death was the first one at the park that didn't involve a medical condition.
Turner Field became the Braves' home in 1997, a year after serving as the site of events for the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Homer's father said the stadium should have been designed to prevent such falls.
"I would like to see the building built to prevent something like this happening to another family," he said. "It should have been better engineered from the jump-street when they built that stadium."
Rockdale News' editor Michelle Kim contributed to this report.