Rangers fan dies after 20-foot fall

Updated: July 8, 2011, 2:51 PM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- A fan who died Thursday after falling from the outfield stands while reaching for a ball thrown by Texas Rangers All-Star outfielder Josh Hamilton has been identified.

The victim was Shannon Stone, a 39-year-old firefighter from Brownwood, Texas. Stone was a lieutenant and had been with the Brownwood Fire Department for nearly 18 years, city manager Bobby Rountree said. Brownwood is about 150 miles southwest of Arlington.

[+] EnlargeTexas Rangers' fan falls
AP Photo/Jeffery WashingtonPolice and fans look over the railing where Shannon Stone fell from the stands at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in July.

Arlington Fire Department officials told The Associated Press that Stone went "into full arrest" as he was transported by ambulance to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, where he was pronounced dead.

Stone fell approximately 20 feet onto concrete Thursday night, tumbling into a gap between the left-field railing and the left field wall, which contains a videoboard with the out-of-town scores. Stone's 6-year-old son, Cooper, witnessed the fall.

"We are deeply saddened to learn that the man who fell has passed away as a result of this tragic accident," Rangers president/CEO Nolan Ryan said in a statement Thursday. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Stone is survived by his wife, Jenny, and son, according to Melanie Larose, a family friend who released a statement on behalf of the family Friday.

"The Stone family is devastated by this tragedy," the statement said. "The family appreciates your thoughts, kind words and prayers and asks that you respect their privacy during their difficult time."

Stone's mother, Suzann, told The Associated Press her son had gone to the ballpark in hopes of catching a ball. Suzann Stone said Friday that Shannon Stone and his son had even stopped on the way to Arlington on Thursday to buy Cooper a new glove.

The flags at Rangers Ballpark have been lowered to half-staff in memory of Stone. The club also will observe a moment of silence before Friday night's game against the A's.

"All of us at Major League Baseball are shocked and saddened over the tragic death of Mr. Stone last evening. Our thoughts and prayers are with his son and his entire family," Major League Baseball said in a statement issued Friday. "Major League Baseball has the utmost sensitivity to the safety of all the fans that come to our ballparks. Our players are encouraged to be fan-friendly and we will carefully review this incident with our clubs to continue to ensure a safe environment for our fans."

The left-field wall is 14 feet high, and Stone fell head-first over the railing, which is a few feet higher. There was an audible gasp in the stands when Stone tumbled over the railing, eerily similar to an accident in July 2010, when a man fell about 30 feet from the second deck of seats down the right-field line while trying to catch a foul ball. The area where Stone fell Thursday is out of sight from the field.

Stone, wearing a blue Rangers cap and white Rangers shirt, was seated in the front row with his son. According to others seated near him, Stone was yelling at Hamilton for a foul ball that was hit by Conor Jackson and ricocheted into left field in the second inning. Hamilton flipped the ball toward Stone, who leaned over, caught it and toppled over into the gap.

After the game, the team, including Hamilton, was told what happened.

"I think as any of us would be, Josh is very distraught over this as the entire team is," Ryan said. He added that the Rangers are "very heavy-hearted about this."

Rangers manager Ron Washington said: "Josh is fine -- outwards he's fine. I guess he's got to deal with it in his own way."

Washington said he will decide Friday whether Hamilton needs a day off after what happened Thursday night.

A fellow fan said he chatted with Stone earlier in the evening but didn't know his name.

"I tried to grab him, but I couldn't," said 50-year-old Ronnie Hargis of Hawley, who was sitting beside Stone. "I tried to slow him down a little bit. He went straight down."

Several fans, including Safawna Dunn, said paramedics quickly got to Stone and took him away on a stretcher.

"He was conscious," Dunn said.

The visitors' bullpen at the stadium is in left-center field. Athletics reliever Brad Ziegler was in tears after the game when he found out the man had died.

"They had him on a stretcher. He said, 'Please check on my son. My son was up there by himself.' The people who carried him out reassured him. 'Sir, we'll get your son, we'll make sure he's OK,' " Ziegler said. "He had his arms swinging. He talked and was conscious. We assumed he was OK. But when you find out he's not, it's just tough."

Before the Rangers batted in the second, Washington spoke briefly with one of the umpires. Michael Young, who was leading off the inning, could be seen talking to A's catcher Kurt Suzuki and pointing toward the area where the previous accident happened.

Former President George W. Bush was sitting in the front row with Ryan near the Rangers' dugout when the accident happened. Ryan left moments later, while Bush remained in the seats.

Ryan said the former president, who is a frequent visitor to Rangers Ballpark, was aware of what was happening.

Hargis' daughter said the victim's head was bleeding badly.

The incident comes one year and one day after a fan fell from the club level and landed in the lower deck, a 30-foot drop. That man, Tyler Morris, was taken to a local hospital after the game was stopped for 16 minutes to get him out of the stadium. Morris, coincidentally a firefighter as well, suffered a fractured skull and sprained ankle and went home two days after his fall.

Thursday's fall is the third by a fan over one of the railings. The first was April 11, 1994, after the Rangers' first home game in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Hollye Minter, a 28-year-old from Plano, Texas, posed for a photograph and fell from a railing in right field. She landed on empty seats and, according to various reports, broke her arm, two ribs and a few bones in her neck.

Club officials said the railings were raised after that game from 30.5 inches to 46 inches in the upper and lower areas of the park.

After Morris was hurt last year, he called the incident a "100 percent, total accident that could have happened to anybody." He said he didn't blame the Rangers or the ballpark.

Ryan said it was too early to talk about the two accidents and what evaluations the team might make about railings at the stadium.

"Tonight, we're not prepared to speak about anything further than the accident and the tragedy," Ryan said. "That's where I'm going to leave it."

It is the second fatal fall at a MLB ballpark this season. In May, a 27-year-old man died after he fell about 20 feet and struck his head on concrete during a Colorado Rockies game.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.