Fall kills lo­cal Braves fan at game

The Covington News - - SPORTS - AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS sports@cov­news.com

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.

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