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Wheaton College student Ethan Roser, 19, of Mason High School was killed April 22 after being accidentally hit by a hammer during a hammer throw event.

A moment of inattention cost Wheaton College student Ethan Roser his life when he was hit in the head by an errant hammer throw at an April track meet, Wheaton police said Monday.

Detective Andrew Uhlir said Roser, 19, a graduate of Mason High School, was struck when he was standing with two others about 30 feet outside the in-bound landing area for the hammer throw, an event that involves hurling a 16-pound metal sphere attached to a handle by a wire.

From ABWheaton College Student Killed by Hammer Throw

Roser, a soccer player who had volunteered to work at the meet with the rest of his teammates, was in an area marked off limits to spectators, Uhlir said, but that wasn't seen as a risk because Roser's job was to mark where the throws landed and take the hammers back to the safety cage where they were launched.

Uhlir said the official overseeing the event, a Moody Bible Institute professor whom the detective would not name, didn't believe anything was amiss.

"From the official's statement, he saw where these three individuals were, and he felt they were in a safe position," the detective said. "And based on where they were, they felt they were in a safe position."

He noted that the NCAA track and field rule book does not provide guidance about where volunteers should stand during the hammer throw.

Uhlir said that during warmups, two of the volunteers were goofing off with a stick used to mark the throws. Roser was watching the horseplay when the hammer struck him, he said.

Uhlir said the volunteers had been told that they needed to keep their focus on the throwers.

"The training was very brief, however it was very clear what they were supposed to do," he said. "They were definitely instructed repeatedly to pay attention to the cage at all times during the event, even between events, because their job was to grab the hammers and bring them back."

Roser, a freshman transfer student, had actually finished his assigned shift for the meet before the fatal throw but had stuck around to cover for a teammate who was visiting with family members, Uhlir said.

"It was a perfect storm," the detective said.

Roser was not the first person to be killed by an off-target hammer throw. Among the list of victims is an athlete killed at a 1981 meet in North Central College in Naperville, and a sportswriter killed at the 1986 NCAA Division II track and field championships at California State University at Los Angeles.

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