updated 4:30 p.m., July 9
ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – A baseball fan trying to catch a ball at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington died from his injuries Thursday night after falling from his seat to the ground roughly 20 feet below.
The fan, identified early Friday morning as 39-year-old Shannon Stone of Brownwood, was with his 6-year-old son, Cooper.
During the second inning of Thursday night’s game against the Oakland A’s, Stone apparently reached out for a ball tossed into the left field lower reserved seats by Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. Stone lost his balance and fell over the railing, out of sight from the field. He landed on concrete behind the out of town video board that makes up the left field wall.
There is about a six-foot space between the stands and the wall. The area used to house the manual scoreboard. The wall is 15 feet high. According to members of the Arlington Fire Department, another fan tried to grab Stone by his shirt, but was unable to hold on. Stone’s son was held back by other fans and did not fall.
Stone was quickly attended to by paramedics at the Ballpark.
Despite being conscious after the fall, officials with the Arlington Fire Department say Stone “went into full arrest” while being transported by ambulance to JPS Hospital in Fort Worth.
Stone was pronounced dead less than an hour after he fell. He was a lieutenant with the Brownwood Fire Department and had been a firefighter for 17 years.
Oakland reliever Brad Ziegler was in the visitor’s bullpen in left-center field, near where Stone fell. He was in tears after the game when he found out about Stone’s death. The pitcher said when Stone was being put on a stretcher, he told people helping him that his son was “up there by himself” and asked them to check on the boy.
“He had his arms swinging. He talked and was conscious. We assumed he was okay,” Ziegler said. “But when you find out he’s not, it’s just tough.”
Rangers president and CEO Nolan Ryan told reporters after the game the team was “Deeply saddened to learn that the man who fell has passed away as a result of this tragic accident.” He went on to say “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Ryan spoke with the team after the game, passing along the news of the death. The Rangers’ clubhouse was closed to the media after the game. Outfielder Josh Hamilton was distraught by the news.
On Friday, Ryan addressed members of the media to say that the Texas Rangers Foundation is starting a memorial account to the Stone family. He said the team will be making a significant donation, and that fans will be able to make donations at the stadium and at texasrangers.com.
Ryan called Thursday’s accident “One of the saddest things I’ve ever seen at the ballpark.” He added “As a father and grandfathers my heart goes out to Jenny Stone and Cooper.”
He said players will have access to counseling, saying it was an individual situation on how the players wanted to handle it. He added they had placed a tarp over the area. He said they have not discussed any plans to secure the area.
Ryan said when the manual scoreboard was in place there was a ‘decking material’ in place over the gap, but that it was removed to keep people from climbing over for foul balls.
Flags at the stadium are at half-staff, and will be through the weekend. There was a moment of silence before Friday’s national anthem.
Melanie Larose, a family friend, released a statement on behalf of the family Friday that says they are devastated by the tragedy. The family thanked everyone for their support and asked for privacy.
Shannon Stone’s mother Suzann told The Associated Press that her son and grandson Cooper had stopped on the way to Arlington on Thursday to buy the boy a new glove. The two were “almost attached at the hip” and went to Rangers games often, including one of the team’s World Series games last season, she said.
“That’s what they were there for was to catch a ball,” the 63-year-old mother said. “Cooper loves baseball and he’s a big Josh Hamilton fan. Had his jersey.”
Stone’s funeral will be held at First United Methodist in Brownwood, a town about 150 miles from Arlington. Visitation is scheduled Sunday night at Davis Morris Funeral Home in Brownwood.
The City of Brownwood is also flying flags at half-staff and will do so through the day of the funeral.
In Brownwood Friday, the city was taking the news of Stone’s death hard. “The Brownwood community is just extremely saddened by this event,” said Brownwood City Manager Bobby Rountree. “A tragedy like this you can’t explain it. How in the world can something like this happen, a young dad takes his young son to a ballgame and such a tragedy occurs.”
“He was very dedicated as a firefighter, it could only be matched by his love and dedication for his family and son,” said Brownwood Fire Chief Del Albright, fighting back tears. “Anytime he came around off duty his son was with him. It will be a great loss for his son and for us all.”
This is the third case of a fan falling at Rangers Ballpark since it opened. In 1994 a woman fell from the railing of the upper home run porch on opening day while posing for a picture. Last year another firefighter, Tyler Morris, fell about 30 feet from the second deck of seats down the right field line, while trying to catch a foul ball. “I am really saddened by what happend last night. It is a hard situation to deal with being a brother fellow firefighter and friend as well.
Morris knows Stone and his brother. “It made my stomach drop to know who it was… My thoughts and prayers are with the Stone family right now.”
This is the first death to occur from a fall at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)