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Five injured, struck by falling batting cage

One person remains hospitalized after steel cables holding the cage above a volleyball court snapped during a match at Goshen College

By Roger Schneider
Goshen News

GOSHEN, Ind. — One person remains hospitalized today after being struck by a falling batting cage at Goshen College Monday night.

College officials said Tuesday there were five people injured, including four in the stands and one volleyball official when the steel cables holding the cage above a volleyball court snapped and allowed the cage to fall. College officials said Tuesday the injuries were not life-threatening.

The four fans injured were parents of Northridge High School players, according to GC officials.

Hospital officials said Tuesday the man who remains in the hospital is listed in fair condition. His wife, who was also injured, was treated and released. The Goshen News could not confirm the couple’s identity with family members, so is withholding the names.

Three people were transported to IU Health Goshen Hospital, two by ambulance and one by private vehicle, according to a firefighter. Others suffered minor injuries.

Witnesses say one woman was knocked unconscious and another woman and man were bleeding.

The batting cage stretches the width of the basketball court and is 10 or 12 feet wide. It is made with steel pipe fra,e, similar to 2- or 3-inch plumbing pipes, and is draped with black netting to stop baseballs and softballs whacked around during practices. The cage is one of two that were suspended above the court and lowered using electric winches. The cages hang from a series of steel, braided cables.

The accident occurred at 6:40 p.m. Monday when a summer high school girls volleyball league was playing. There were three matches being played on the Goshen College basketball floor, which can be converted into the volleyball courts. Members of more teams and their friends and parents were also in the gym waiting to play, according to one of the referees. Small sections of bleachers were pulled out to accommodate the small group of fans for each team.

It was on two of those sections that the batting cage fell.

Heard it coming

“There was a large pop and then one of the sides came down and there was more pops and then I saw the nets coming down,” said GC student Sam Heberling, who was under that net. “I was reffing on that court. I was under it. It came down on me. It hit me in the hand and wrist and it is a little sore. I am going to get it checked out tomorrow, so it should be OK.”

Others who were in the gym told similar stories of narrow escapes.

At the south end of the section of court involved, spectators first heard and then saw the cage coming down.

“We caught it,” said Tracy Kennedy of Urbana, Ind. in Wabash County as she raised her hands up above her head. “We heard it. You could hear the snap of all the cords.”

She said it took five or six seconds from the first to last cable snap for the event to unfold.

“I had kids in front of me,” said Gina Stefanatos who was sitting near Kennedy. “I never ran so fast.”

They were there to watch their daughters play in the twice-a-week summer league that had just begun.

Noting that there was a second cage suspended above the court where the girls were playing and that it was there during last year’s play, Stefanatos thought of the possibilities.

“It’s kind of scary,” she said.

Christine and Brett Hoover also saw the accident unfold before them.

“Just one by one they started falling,” Brett said of the cables that held up the cage. “It was making a lot of noise and we looked up and it was coming down.”

And the cage was heading for a group of seated fans.

“It fell right on them,” Brett said. “One lady was knocked out for what was three or four minutes.”

Many help

Heberling said spectators were quick to respond to the injured.

“As soon as I got out of the net, a woman came over and said ‘excuse me, excuse me I am a nurse and I can help,’” Heberling said. “So there were a handful of nurses or at least people who knew what they were doing who were helping those who seriously needed the help.”

She said volleyball players quickly gathered to lift the heavy cage off the victims.

Goshen paramedics arrived quickly, something Bill Born, vice president of student affairs for GC said was greatly appreciated. He also praised those who were there and gave immediate aid to the victims.

What’s next

The volleyball matches were canceled and after everyone gathered their belongings and left the gym, it was locked.

“It is kind of a strange event,” Born said. “We will do our legwork checking all the different components to see what is the issue, but that will take a little bit of time.”

He said Monday that process was to begin Tuesday.

Robert Dittmer, spokesman for the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said his agency will be looking into if it has jurisdiction to investigate the accident. He said normally the agency does not have authority to investigate accidents involving college students, but because non-students were injured, the agency will have to determine if it has authority to investigate.

“As it stands right now we are aware of it and we will look into it first thing in the morning,” Dittmer said Tuesday afternoon.

Follow Roger Schneider on Twitter at rschneider_TGN

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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