CHICAGO (AP) — The death of a 23-year-old fan who fell from a Soldier Field concourse during halftime of Sunday’s game between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles appears to have been accidental, a stadium official said Monday.
Witnesses and friends gave differing accounts about the moments before the man, identified publicly by the Cook County medical examiner’s office Monday as 23-year-old Stewart Haverty of Woodstock, cleared a 3-foot railing and fell more than 35 feet onto the roof of a storage building.
Haverty — whose name was spelled Stuart, according to school officials and family — fell at about 5 p.m. Sunday from a concessions area that is a popular halftime hangout spot, said Soldier Field spokesman Luca Serra. Haverty was declared dead shortly after being taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
“It’s a tragic, unfortunate accident,” Serra said.
According to early witness accounts, Haverty reportedly ran to the ledge and jumped. Friends told the Chicago Sun-Times that Haverty may have hopped over the balcony to smoke a cigarette, unaware of the drop. Police would neither confirm nor deny those accounts.
Serra called the death an “isolated incident” and the first of its kind since completion of a major renovation of the 63,500-seat stadium in 2003.
Chicago police spokesman John Mirabelli said Haverty’s death doesn’t appear to have been “criminal,” and that investigators are were awaiting the results of an autopsy. He said he didn’t know what led to Haverty’s fall.
Friends and family described Haverty on Monday as mild-mannered but an avid Bears fan.
He even stacked up sofas at his apartment to make it appear stadium-like, friend Emily Heidenreich told the Chicago Sun-Times.
He was “down to earth, quiet, and fun to go out for a few drinks with,” Heidenreich said. “You could always go to him with a problem.”
A message left Monday for Heidenreich by The Associated Press wasn’t immediately returned.
Haverty graduated early from Woodstock High School in 2006 after taking an interest in machinery, said the school’s principal, Corey Tafoya.
He had a particular interest in tool-and-die making, Tafoya said.
“He was a success story in a lot of ways,” Tafoya said. “He was a well thought-of kid.”
Haverty’s death was the second in a week at a major U.S. sporting arena. On Nov. 21, a 2-year-old boy fell from a luxury box at the Staples Center during a Los Angeles Lakers game. Lucas Anthony Tang’s death was ruled an accident.
The Bears offered condolences to Haverty’s family on Monday.
“The Chicago Bears are deeply saddened to hear of the tragic accident that claimed the life of Stuart Haverty yesterday,” the statement reads. “Our hearts go out to his family and friends. They will be in our prayers during this difficult time.”
The Associated Press