Victim in Fatal Deck Fall Was Drunk; Should That Matter?

Paul Steinbach Headshot

It comes as no great shock that University of Tennessee football fan Issac Grubb was drunk Aug. 31, when he fell from the upper deck at the Georgia Dome, suffered severe head trauma and later died. What's surprising is that it took this long to come to that conclusion.

More than a month after Grubb joined a growing list of 20-something males to fall from the upper decks of American stadiums, an autopsy report released Oct. 2 stated that preliminary screenings found no signs of alcohol or drugs in Grubb's system, but a doctor said the initial results were not definitive. On Friday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, among other local news outlets, reported that toxicology tests conducted by the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office had found Grubb to have a blood-alcohol level of .169 - more than twice the limit allowed to legally operate a motor vehicle - at the time of his fatal 45-foot fall.

A spokesperson for the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which staged the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game between Tennessee and North Carolina State, said Grubb entered the upper deck's Gate C at 7:23 p.m. and fell over the deck's railing an hour later while celebrating a Tennessee touchdown.

And while intoxication likely played a role in this tragedy, it shouldn't have, and not for the obvious reason that Grubb shouldn't have been as drunk as he apparently was. He could have been passed out from excessive alcohol consumption and still spared his fate if railing heights had been adequate. "No perceptual or motor ability or anything like that should have any bearing on whether that person can successfully be stopped by a railing," public safety expert Jake Pauls told AB last summer, after a fatal fall at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, resurrected the railing debate. "And so the fainting situation is something that we always considered as a possibility. It could be a person jostled. It could be a person having a medical event. Whatever. The guardrail has to do its job regardless of how sentient the person is or what his or her IQ is."

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