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A longtime Atlanta Braves season ticket-holder was seen passionately rooting against a Yankees slugger when he toppled over the upper-level railing to his death, landing on concrete at least 40 feet below at Turner Field.
While investigators said Sunday they haven’t determined what caused Gregory Kent Murrey to fall, the Braves organization and other fans in the stadium expressed sadness and shock over the Alpharetta man’s death.
“We’re all dealing with the sadness and the tragedy of it, for the gentleman’s family and anybody who happened to witness it,” Braves President John Schuerholz said Sunday. “It’s difficult, and that’s what our focus is right now…trying to do everything we can to help the families deal with this as best as possible. Not only the family of the gentleman, but others who witnessed it, experienced it.”
More than 49,000 people were at the Saturday night game, but many were unaware of the commotion that happened behind home plate. Others saw an image they can’t forget: the 60-year-old Murrey falling head first, somehow avoiding landing on anyone else as he hit the concrete below.
Murrey was a longtime ticket holder and had prime seats, just above home plate, above the media booths. Even those who saw Murrey fall couldn’t believe what they had seen.
“It was surreal,” said Donnie Marley of Fayetteville, N.C. “It was like, ‘Did I just see that happen?’”
It was the top of the seventh inning, and Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez had just been announced as the next batter. Rodriguez, 40, returned to baseball this year following a suspension for the 2014 season for using illegal performance-enhancing drugs, and Braves fans weren’t very welcoming.
Murrey was among those booing, and he had stood up from his second-row seat when he lost his balance, witnesses said. He somehow passed through those in the front row of the 400-level section as he toppled over the railing, landing in section 202.
Marty Burns of Vernon, Ala., was seated in section 401 and also saw Murrey in the moments before he fell. Burns, a Yankees fan, wanted to take a picture of Rodriguez at the plate, but he was distracted at what he saw out of the corner of his eye. A man’s feet were in the air and then he was gone.
“It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” Burns said.
Some fans immediately left the area. Others were in tears. And many weren’t sure what had happened, but suspected it wasn’t good. Braves radio broadcaster Jim Powell called it his worst moment in 20 years of broadcasting major league games and said he didn’t want to continue, but the game didn’t stop.
Paramedics began life-saving measures on Murrey that lasted for several minutes. But he was dead upon arrival at Grady Memorial Hospital, police said late Saturday.
Atlanta police do not suspect foul play, but have no definitive answer about what caused Murrey to fall. An autopsy will be conducted to determine whether alcohol was a factor. Investigators were asking for help from witnesses who were seated in Murrey’s section or nearby, Sgt. Greg Lyon said Sunday.
Murrey — who owned an insurance business in Roswell, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s corporations division — is the second fan to die from a fall at Turner Field in two years. A third died in 2008.
Ronald Lee Homer Jr., 30, of Conyers died Aug. 12, 2012, after going over a railing and landing 85 feet below in a parking lot. Homer’s family believe his death was accidental. But his death was later ruled a suicide by medical examiners, who said a witness saw Homer climb over a railing and jump feet first, The AJC previously reported.
Homer, whose blood-alcohol level was approximately twice the legal limit, died from blunt force trauma.
In May 2008, 25-year-old Justin Hayes died when he fell four levels inside the stadium, striking a concrete and metal railing, police previously said. The Cumming man was attempting to slide down a railing next to steps when he fell, his friends said.
— Staff writers David O’Brien and Bill Torpy contributed to this story. Please return to AJC.com for updates.
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