When following your favorite team, it can be easy to get wrapped up in all the excitement and forget that, in the end, it’s all just a game. Unfortunately, sports fans around the world were given a sober reminder this week to keep things in perspective. I am of course referring to the tragic death of 39-year-old firefighter and Texas Rangers fan Shannon Stone. While trying to catch a baseball tossed by MVP outfielder Josh Hamilton, Shannon lost his balance, tumbled over the left field railing, and fell head-first into a scoreboard while his 6-year-old son looked on from the stands. The 20 foot fall proved to be fatal.
Sadly, there are far too many examples of fan fatalities at professional sporting events. Sometimes these terrible incidents result from the inherent danger of certain sports, or from the mass hysteria that can be produced in an overhyped crowd. Other times they are just freak accidents that could happen almost anywhere, like the one this week in Texas. But regardless of the exact circumstances, they all remind us that life is short, and we need to be alert, be careful, and keep our cool at sporting events.
9. 2008 Escalator Death of Mets Fan at Shea Stadium
Antonio Nararainsami, 36, was attending a Mets game with several family members in 2008 when he fell from an escalator to the concrete floor below. Sadly, he was pronounced dead an hour later at the hospital. Normally you might expect drunken horseplay to be the culprit in this sort of tragedy; however, Nararainsami’s cousin, who was with him at the game, said he was simply walking down an out-of-order escalator when he lost his footing and fell.
8. 2009 and 2002 Deaths of Cycling Fans at Tour de France
Compared to motor racing sports, cycling may not seem all that dangerous. But in 2009, a spectator of the most famous cycling event in the world, the Tour de France, was killed after being hit by a police motorcycle. Apparently the woman, who was in her 60s, was trying to cross the road after a break-away group of riders had passed when she was struck by one of the police motorcycles that accompany the cyclists. This was the first fatality at the Tour de France since 2002, when a child was killed after being struck by one of the TV trucks following the riders.
7. 2011 Death of Soccer Fan Who Headed Trash Can
Earlier this year in England, a Blackburn Rovers supporter named John Taylor collapsed and died after he reportedly intentionally “headed” a 25 pound trashcan. Taylor was attending an away game at Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium. Witnesses said the trashcan was thrown by a fellow Blackburn supporter. In April the incident was officially ruled “death by misadventure” by the coroner.
6. 2009 Beating Death of Philadelphia Phillies Fan
David Sale was beaten to death outside Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park on Saturday, July 25, 2009, after an argument over a spilled beer. Sale was part of a group of eight men who had spent the afternoon at the ballpark for a bachelor party. During the course of the game, the party made its way from the stands to a bar attached to the ballpark. Members of the bachelor party got into a fight with another group of people when someone spilled their drink on someone else. The two groups of people were kicked out of the bar, but the dispute didn’t end there. Outside in the parking lot, Jim Grove, 45, Charles Bowers, 35, and Francis Kirchner, 28, kicked and punched the 22-year-old David Sale until he was no longer moving—the whole disgusting thing caught on surveillance tape. Sales died at a hospital no more than an hour later.
5. 2004 Death of Red Sox Fan Celebrating Pennant
When the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Yankees in game 7 the 2004 American League Championship Series after being down in the series 3-0, Boston understandably went a little nuts. Sadly, the celebration turned tragic when a 21-year-old Red Sox fan named Victoria Snelgrove was unintentionally hit by a supposedly “non-lethal” round from a crowd-control gun. The projectile hit Snelgrove near the eye, fracturing the bone and causing excessive bleeding. Ambulances were unable to reach her quickly due to the dense crowds, and she died about 12 hours after being shot. No charges were ever filed against the police officer who fired the round that hit her.
4. 2002 Death of a Hockey Fan
Hockey is a fast sport that involves a rock-hard frozen projectile moving at speeds up to and occasionally beyond 100 mph. However, the NHL somehow went 84 years without spectator being killed by a flying puck. Sadly, that streak of good luck came to an end on March 18, 2002, when a 13-year-old girl named Brittanie Cecil was hit in the forehead by a puck at a game between the Calgary Flames and Columbus Blue Jackets. Poor Brittanie died three days later. Prompted by this horrible loss, the NHL required all teams to place nets above the glass behind each goal the following season.
3. 1955 Le Mans Auto Racing Disaster
Auto racing is a sport known for spectacular crashes. In fact, half the people at a given race are probably hoping they’ll see a crash or two. However, today we are used to seeing both drivers and spectators walk away from these crashes injury free. Sadly, in the history of the sport, things were not always so safe. The most catastrophic auto racing accident of all time occurred during the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race on June 11, 1955. Driver Pierre Levegh clipped another car and crashed into an earth bank. Upon impact his car exploded, sending the engine, rear axel and other parts flying into the crowd. Almost unbelievably, 83 people were killed, including Levegh. Obviously, this event changed racing forever.
2. 2001 Ghana Soccer Stampede
Sadly, the world’s most popular sport produces the most tragic instances of fan deaths. In Ghana in 2001, a match between the Accra Hearts of Oak and the Kumasi Asante Kotoko turned tragic when a stampede broke out that left 120 fans dead. With less than 15 minutes remaining in the game, 2 quick goals by the Hearts gave them a 2-1 lead. At this point, furious Asante fans began ripping out and throwing plastic chairs onto the field. When police began firing tear gas to “contain” the situation, the crowd panicked, leading to the stampede.
1. 1964 Lima, Peru Soccer Riot
There have been so many soccer riots over the years that this unfortunate “tradition” has somehow become a joke—you remember that episode of The Simpsons don’t you? However, there is nothing funny about the events that occured on May 24, 1964 in Lima Peru. During a crucial match between Peru and Argentina to determine who would qualify for the 1964 Olympics, Argentina was winning 1-0 in the final minutes of the game when the tying goal by Peru’s Bertolotti Andres was disallowed by the referees. Fans in the packed stadium were outraged, and riots began to break out. The police decided to fire tear gas into the stands, which of course dispersed the crowd. However, for some reason, the gates to the stadium had been chained shut. Unable to escape, panic set in amongst the crowd, leading to a stampede. When it was all said and done, 318 people were killed.