ATLANTA (AP) — A lifelong Atlanta Braves fan who fell about 85 feet to his death at the team’s stadium was waiting out a rain delay in a smoking area and talking to his mother on the phone shortly before the accident.
Ronald Lee Homer Jr., 30, had just told his mother that the rain was letting up and he was about to head to his seat for the game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday night. At least four witnesses told police that no one else was standing near him when he fell over a 42-inch high, fourth-level railing into a parking lot for players.
“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 on Tuesday morning.
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. A police report released Tuesday says Homer was unconscious and wasn’t breathing when paramedics arrived. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Homer didn’t appear to suffer any injuries aside from ones that were associated with his fall, Fulton County Medical Office investigators said in a release. He died of blunt force trauma. Toxicology tests were pending.
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 play the Philadelphia Phillies at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday at Turner Field. A team spokeswoman declined to comment on the circumstances of Homer’s 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-foot-6 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 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.”
Homer grew up in Conyers, Ga., and graduated in 2001 from Rockdale High School, where he was involved in student government. He was single, had one sister and did landscape work for a living.
“He was big hearted, just a great guy, very respectful,” his mother said.
Smoking is allowed in the area where Homer fell, 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.”
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 past 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.”
Associated Press Writers Johnny Clark and Charles Odum in Atlanta contributed to this report.