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Saturday, July 9, 2011

'Please check on my son': Fireman's final words as he lay dying after falling in front of six-year-old son as he tried to catch ball at baseball game

-39-year-old fireman toppled over barrier and plummeted 20ft on to concrete after trying to catch ball for his six-year-old son
-Man cried out 'Please check on my son' in final words as he lay dying
-Six-year-old's favourite player Josh Hamilton had tossed ball up after man had called for it
-Father and son bought new glove on way to game in hope of catching ball
-Mr Hamilton said he is 'very distraught' after the tragic accident
-Former president George W Bush was watching from the stands

By John Stevens

A fireman who fell to his death in front of his six-year-old son when he toppled over a railing at a baseball game cried out 'Please check on my son', as he lay dying on the ground.

Shannon Stone, 39, was trying to catch a foul ball for his young son at the Texas Rangers Ballpark when he plunged 20 feet as he reached out for the ball as it was tossed up to the stand.

In his final words, the fire lieutenant called: 'Please check on my Son. My son was up there by himself', as his young son Cooper watched in horror from above, witnesses reported.

Scroll down for video

Mr Stone's young son Cooper (centre) looks down after his father toppled over the railing and fell 20ft while trying to catch a baseball

Heartbreaking: Six-year-old Cooper Stone looks down to where his father fell

Brad Ziegler, who was stood close to where Mr Stone fell, said: 'The people who carried him out reassured him. "Sir, we'll get your son. We'll make sure he's OK".'

'He had his arms swinging,' said Mr Ziegler. 'He talked and was conscious. We assumed he was okay. But when you find out he's not, it's just tough.'

Mr Stone was watching the game at the ballpark in Arlington when he shouted out for outfielder Josh Hamilton to throw him the ball.

The player duly tossed it up to the stands but as he leaned out to catch it he lost his balance and fell over the railings landing on the concrete below.

There was an audible gasp from the stands as baseball fans watched the man plummet down a gap behind the scoreboard.

Officials said the man was conscious after the fall but 'went into full arrest' while being taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Mr Stone was pronounced dead at a Fort Worth hospital less than an hour after he fell. He is survived by his 36-year-old wife Jenny and his son.

Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton said that he is 'very distraught' after the tragic incident.

Mr Stone's mother, Suzann Stone, today said that her son and grandson had gone to the game in hopes of catching a ball in the stands.

The father even stopped on the way to Arlington to buy a new glove for the boy, whose favourite player is Hamilton, said Mrs Stone.

Fans watch on as the man leans out to catch the ball as it is thrown up by a player

He leans out to catch the ball while his son, wearing a baseball glove, stands behind

Having lost his balance he topples over the railings

Fellow fan Ronnie Hargis, who had been chatting to the victim moments before the tragedy, leans out to try and grab him but it is too late

'I always told him if he wasn't my son I would want him as my best friend,' Mrs Stone said, choking back tears. 'He was so good, so caring of everybody.'

Fellow fan Ronnie Hargis said he had been chatting to Mr Stone as they had been sitting together in the first row of seats in the left field.

He said he had tried to try to grab the man, who fell headfirst through a gap of several feet that is between the seats and the 14-foot-high outfield wall.

He said: He went straight down. I tried to grab him, but I couldn't. I tried to slow him down a little bit.'

Mr Shannon was a 17 year veteran of the Brownwood City fire department.

Spokesman Bobby Rountree told MailOnline: 'This is a sombre day for Shannon's family, his firefighter brothers and the whole city of Brownwood.

'It is a tragedy that no one can explain.'

Colleagues this afternoon paid tribute to their fellow officer.

'You worry about him getting hurt fighting a fire, and I always worry about that with my guys, but this is something you don't expect,' said Brownwood fire chief Del Albright.

'Whatever the family wants, we'll make it happen,' he told ESPN. 'We have traditions and ways of remembering our fallen brothers and sisters with honour guards and flag ceremonies. We'll talk with the family and see what we need to do.'

Mr Albright said that Mr Stone was 'dependable' and have been honoured with a distinguished service medal.

Tragedy: Police officers look down from where Mr Stone fell at the Texas Rangers ballpark

'He was so dedicated to his son and family and a dedicated firefighter,' he said.

'Whenever he was off duty, he was with his son. We had officer meetings and I would ask him to come in on his day off to attend those and nine out of ten times he had his son with him.'

Captain Robert Myers, who worked with Mr Stone for all of his 17 years of his service, said: I guess probably the most important thing to remember about him is he had a heart of gold.

'He had a rough exterior, but he'd do anything for anybody and he loved the fire service and the guys he worked with and his family,' he told ESPN.

The accident happened in the second inning after Oakland's Conor Jackson hit a foul ball that ricocheted into left field. Hamilton retrieved the ball and tossed it into the stands as players routinely do.

Fall: Workers cover the gap where Mr Stone plunged to his death at the Arlington stadium

Rangers team president Nolan Ryan said: 'We had a very tragic accident tonight and one of our fans lost their life reaching over the rail trying to get a ball.

'As an organization, and as our team members and our staff, we're very heavy-hearted about this, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.'

Mr Hamilton is 'very distraught over this, as the entire team is,' Mr Ryan said.

Former president George W Bush, who used to be the team's managing general partner and often attends games, was sitting in the front row with Mr Ryan near the Texas dugout when the accident happened.

Mr Ryan left moments later while Bush remained in the seats.

Mr Ryan said Mr Bush was aware of what was happening.

Accident: The man fell after trying to catch a ball thrown up by Texas Rangers' player Josh Hamilton

It is the second fatal fall at a major league stadium this season. In May, a 27-year-old man died after he fell about 20 feet and struck his head on concrete during a Colorado Rockies game.

Witnesses told police that the man had been trying to slide down a staircase railing at Coors Field and lost his balance during a game against Arizona
Between innings, Rangers manager Ron Washington spoke briefly with one of the umpires.

He said: 'We knew about it, we didn't know exactly what happened. It's sad, it's very sad.

Oakland reliever Brad Ziegler was in the visitor's bullpen in left-center field close to the area where the man fell.

Ziegler was in tears after the game when he found out about the death. The pitcher said when the man was put on a stretcher, he told people tending to him that his son was 'up there by himself' and asked them to check on the boy.

He said: 'He had his arms swinging. He talked and was conscious. We assumed he was OK.

'But when you find out he's not, it's just tough.'

Bob Melvin, manager of visiting side the Oakland As said: 'It's just devastating. I don't even know what to say. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.

'It filtered into our dugout. ... I made a little announcement to the team after the game. Certainly baseball is not very important in light of something like that.'

Warning: Video may be disturbing



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