Official Struck and Killed by Shot Put

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Official Struck and Killed by Shot Put

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Thu Jun 23, 2005 3:18 am

The article does not have any details, but I heard it was an official. I heard some other details as well but I will wait for the press release on them... ... %20Injured

Man hit in head with shot put at meet


CARSON, Calif. -- A man was struck in the head by a shot put on Wednesday during warmups for the U.S. track and field championships.

The man was rushed to a hospital, and his condition was not immediately known, according to Jill Geer, director of communications for USA Track and Field. It was not immediately clear whether the man was a meet official, Geer said.

The injury occurred about 4:15 p.m. at the Home Depot Center, where the championships will be held Thursday through Sunday.

An Associated Press photographer at the track said the man collapsed about 20 feet from the shot put ring. Geer said a doctor was on site and immediately began treatment. Athletic trainers also ran to the man's aid. Emergency medical technicians arrived within about five minutes and took the injured man away.

Geer said she had no other details, and that the man's identity was being withheld pending a further evaluation of his condition and contact with his family.
Last edited by rainbowgirl28 on Thu Jun 23, 2005 2:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Thu Jun 23, 2005 10:08 am ... orts-front

Official Dies After Shotput Accident

Paul Suzuki, 77, who had worked at local meets for decades, is hit in the head during practice for the U.S. championships at the Home Depot Center.

By Helene Elliott and Eric Stephens
Times Staff Writers
Posted June 23 2005

Paul Suzuki of West Los Angeles, a former landscape maintenance worker who had officiated at local track and field meets for decades, was killed Wednesday when he was struck in the head by a 16-pound shot while shotputters practiced for the U.S. track and field championships at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

Suzuki, 77, was struck shortly after 4 p.m. He was treated at the scene and transported to Harbor UCLA Medical Center, where he died.

"He did this for the fun," said Sheila Suzuki Hubbard, one of his three children. "He retired a long time ago."

Firefighter Robert Bruce of Station 116 in Carson said the station received a call at 4:10 and arrived at 4:13 p.m. "He was in dire straits when we showed up," Bruce said. "It was obvious that he had a severe injury to his head.

"At the time, he was still breathing, but he was not conscious and his vital signs were diminishing as we rode over. When you have injuries like that, the brain tends to swell up quickly and your vital signs tend to start shutting down."

Bruce said Suzuki stopped breathing en route to the hospital, and emergency workers performed CPR. Doctors continued the CPR at the hospital's trauma center, which Bruce estimated was no more than 10 minutes away.

The accident stunned other meet officials and athletes who had been on the field. Some athletes began to pray, while others stood nearby in tears and in disbelief.

The U.S. track and field championships start today and end Sunday.

The identity of the male athlete who threw the shotput was not immediately known.

William Mocnik Jr. of Cerritos, who was an alternate official for the shotput competition, said he saw the incident but was too distressed to talk about it. "It was horrible," he said. "It was just an accident.

"He had officiated for 30 years or so, at least, that I know of."

Jim Hanley, another meet official and member of a local track and field officials' organization, did not see the incident but knew Suzuki.

"It made all of us real sick. I was crying when I heard about it," Hanley said. Suzuki was "just a real nice guy. He was always nice to new people who came into the organization."

Said Dick McQuarrie, another official: "I've known Paul for years. It's just a tragic situation."

Jill Geer, a spokeswoman for USA Track and Field, said the organization could not comment until it received permission to do so from the Suzuki family. Officials of the Home Depot Center and meet organizers also declined to comment.

Scott Davis, meet director of the Mt. San Antonio College Relays and a public address announcer for the U.S. championships, said Suzuki had officiated at Mt. SAC for years, primarily as a starter.

Davis said he recalled Suzuki officiating at this year's meet, in April in Walnut.

"He was very well liked," Davis said. "He's been around for years and he never failed to work at Mt. SAC. What a nice, nice man. Very polite.

"Paul was one off those guys you just couldn't help but like."

Suzuki is also survived by his wife, Dorothy, two other children and four grandchildren, according to Tillman Hubbard, a grandson.

Track and field has experienced similar tragedies involving the shotput and hammer throw events.

On April 2, USC thrower Noah Bryant was seriously injured at a meet at Cal State Northridge when the 16-point hammer he threw ricocheted off a protective screening and back into his face. Several plates were inserted into his face, including one into his cheekbone.

At this year's NCAA West Regional competition in Eugene, Ore., a female official was hit by a discus, causing a bloody wound. In 1977 in Sacramento, meet official Maree Rodebaugh was killed by a shot at Hughes Stadium. And in Europe, four people were killed by hammer throws in 2000, according to various track and field websites.

Phil Klusman, a Bakersfield sportswriter, was killed by a hammer at a track meet at Cal State Los Angeles in 1986.

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Unread postby master » Thu Jun 23, 2005 12:32 pm

My heart felt sympathy goes out to the family and friends of Mr Suzuki. It is certainly a tragedy.

Reading about the person being hit by a discus in Eugene is of particular concern. Just last Sunday at the Hayward Masters Classic, in response to hearing a "heads up" yell, I saw a discus bounce once and fly within 2 feet of the head of a fellow masters vaulter. That was not the first time I saw a similar "almost" accident. I think it is time for the people who set up the events at Hayward to do something different. When the North runway of the West vaulting pit is used, anyone on the runway out about 100 feet or so is in potential danger from an errant discus. Note for the discus to be potentially dangerous, it must have been thrown such that it lands outside the acceptable zone. This would lead me to believe that some structure could be built onto the current "cage" that could deflect an errant discus before it became dangerous to competitors of other events. Writing this here has me thinking I need to write directly to the responsible people of Hayward Field, which I think is a fantastic facility with great people, but this needs to be improved.

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Unread postby indestructo » Thu Jun 23, 2005 1:35 pm

My condolences go out to the family and friends as well.

We had similar concerns during the Midwest Meet of Champions meet down at Ohio Wesleyan University. We had a couple a discs come to a stop a few feet from athletes participating in the vault. Its a nice setup to have all of the events viewable from the stands, and for most meets there won't be a thrower that can put it out that far, but something should be done when the possibility of that happening is a very real threat.

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Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Thu Jun 23, 2005 2:22 pm ... 3_09_39_19

USATF statement regarding the death of Paul Suzuki

Jill Geer
Director of Communications
USA Track & Field
317-261-0478 x360

The USA Track & Field family is profoundly saddened by the tragic shot put accident that claimed the life of Paul Suzuki on Wednesday. We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Suzuki's family.

"Everyone at AEG and the Home Depot Center sends their heartfelt condolences to the family," added Bill Peterson, Managing Director of the Home Depot Center.

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Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Thu Jun 23, 2005 2:27 pm ... 01605.html

Official's death shocks SoCal track world on eve of nationals
USATF officials and Southern California track insiders are mourning the accidental death of Paul Suzuki,an official killed by an errant 16-pound shot at the Home Depot Center in Carson. These officials, the unsung red-coated heroes of meet directors, get a small stipend for a ton of work. It's not supposed to be fatal, however.

Andy Hecker of Ventura, a longtime USATF official and meet director who also competes in masters track, wrote me this morning with details that have yet to appear anywhere publicly:

"The major story already coming out of the National Championships will be about my friend and fellow official Paul Suzuki--my source for starting (blank) shells. As I understand it, third hand, he was hit in the head by an errant shot put. From witnesses on the scene, his skull was crushed and they assumed him to be dead on the scene. I received confirmation that he had died by e-mail just this evening....

"The report I got was he was fixing the shot put return ramp that had fallen over. That brought him closer into the throwing range. His attention was on fixing the ramp rather than the ring as all good officials are trained to do. Paul does (did) not hear very well, an affliction that affects many officials after years of starting--particularly from the old days before hearing protection. I was told the errant shot hit him square in the head.

"Paul was one of the nicest guys around Track and Field. He has worked several of my SCA Masters Championships meets, including being a starter at the 2000 meet in Cerritos and has worked many other meets--I was hoping he would make it this year since the meet was so close to his home, but he was at the Special Olympics meet instead.

"Paul was most notable as an official for having worked three meets in a day (that's dedication), at least one time included working the Striders meet as the middle of those meets (he did a collegiate meet in the morning and either a HS or Open meet later that same evening). Paul was also responsible for the majority of photographs of Southern California officials over the last couple of decades. Needless to say this is a huge loss to the Track and Field community."

We join with USATF (which issued a brief statement) in extending our condolences to Paul's family and friends, and hope the athletes who compete this weekend cherish their extraordinary health even more in light of this tragedy.

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Unread postby sdvaulter06 » Sun Jun 26, 2005 2:48 am

Ohh my gosh! That is Terrible! That is basically the reason that Javalin is Banned in South Dakota! Somone got struck in the head and died and they outlawed it for High School Track and Field. lance
PM me if you know of any vaults around the Midwest!

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Re: Official Struck and Killed by Shot Put

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Tue May 26, 2009 2:57 pm ... ml?sid=101

Triumph over tragedy: Track-and-field accident changed the lives of two families
TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2009 3:08 AM

The first time Patrick Whalen saw Paul Suzuki it was already too late.
The 13.2-pound shot put had left the right hand of the barrel- chested Buckeye and started on its trajectory into the southern California sky.

No prayers could alter its three-second flight. No shouts of warning could alert the 77-year-old track official.

Long ago, coaches had taught Whalen to be careful throwing track-and-field implements used in ancient times as instruments of war. On this day, he had followed proper etiquette, scanning the V-shaped shot-put sector before launching the metal ball.

What he couldn't account for, however, was the generosity of a longtime volunteer who picked the worst moment to cross the range to assist a fellow official.

"Nobody blamed me, but all I could think about was this one official, this one voice from behind me yelling, 'Oh, no, what have you done?' " Whalen said.

Four years ago, on a sun-baked afternoon in Carson, Calif., a shot put hurled in a practice session of a junior national track meet changed the lives of two families.

It also reduced a gregarious Ohio State freshman to a fragile 19-year-old haunted by memories and prone to bouts of depression.

"I don't think we've ever had the same thrower who walked in the door here," Buckeyes track assistant coach Kevin Mannon. "He has done a nice job getting through it the best he can."

Whalen still sees visions of Suzuki. He sees him in the shot put and discus rings as he prepares for meets; he sees him when his mind is unoccupied; he sees him at night when he closes his eyes.

He has wanted to reach out and contact the Suzukis, but has yet to do so. Whalen often thinks of them and has wondered what they must think of him.

Fateful phone call

Sheila Suzuki had just returned home from teaching school on June 22, 2005, when her mother, Dorothy, called from next door of their West Los Angeles apartments.

There had been a track accident involving Sheila's father.

Paul Suzuki, a second generation Japanese-American, had devoted decades to volunteering his time to officiating track meets and other sports. A retired landscape maintenance worker, he enjoyed donning his red blazer and working track events throughout southern California.

Suzuki had suffered a heart attack in his 50s and several mini-strokes, but his declining health could not temper his love of community service.

Sheila had understood the inherent dangers of track meets with their airborne javelins and discuses and the organized chaos of hundreds of athletes and officials running from place to place. Nothing, though, prepared Sheila for her mom's call.

"She told me dad had been hit in the head by a shot put and we had to go to the hospital," Sheila said.

In the late afternoon, Suzuki was standing in the stadium infield at the Home Depot Center as shot putters were taking practice rounds. As he saw a fellow official in need of assistance, eyewitnesses say, Suzuki walked across the sector just as an Ohio State freshman was throwing a shot.

Spectators, competitors and coaches shouted at Suzuki, who wore a hearing aid. The ball struck him on the left side of the head, knocking him to the ground. He was breathing, but unconscious. Medical staff worked on the elderly man as athletes knelt and prayed, according to a report.

The shot putter immediately ran to Suzuki's side but was overcome by the grisly sight and ran out of the stadium.

An ambulance transported Suzuki to UCLA Medical Center.

As Sheila drove her mother and teenage son, Tillman, to the hospital, she had hoped the shot put had only grazed her father. Sheila's parents had spent time in Japanese internment camps during World War II. They were married in 1950 and taught their children to internalize personal hardship.

She kept a brave face as she led her son and mother into the hospital.

"They didn't take us to see him," Sheila said. "They took us into a small room and told us that my father had died."

The following days were a blur. Family members did interviews with local television stations. The funeral home was packed with mourners. Grieving track officials arrived in the red blazers that her father wore proudly.

It was a day, maybe two, after the funeral that Shelia first recalled hearing the name Patrick Whalen.

'The salmon'

Minutes after the accident, Whalen was sitting on a curb outside the stadium where his best friend and former Buckeyes thrower, Shelaine Larson, found him. Whalen was ghostly white and appeared to be in shock.

He had been so excited to make his first trip to California and eat at In-N-Out Burger. Instead, he spent his first night in a hotel room talking to a grief counselor.

"I can picture every detail of the throw, but after that I don't really recall anything," Whalen said. "I just remember feeling so bad for what happened and thinking about that man and his family."

Whalen flew to Columbus the next day and his family took him home to West Dundee, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.

Within a week, Whalen was on medication to combat anxiety and depression. The pills brought side effects, though, fostering feelings of invincibility and leading to fights and other "deviant acts" he won't discuss.

As doctors regulated his medication, the 6-foot-5, 265-pound man-child sunk into himself like a building imploding. There were nightmares and bed sweats.

"You could see that he was carrying the accident with him everywhere he went," said his mother, Elly.

Whalen considered taking a break from school, but his father discouraged it. Broad-shouldered Mike Whalen hadn't missed a day of work in 25 years as a terminal manager for Marathon Oil, and he bred that resilience in his two sons, Matt and Pat.

Mike Whalen was bitten by a brown recluse spider 14 years ago and watched his swollen elbow turn black. He wouldn't have sought medical attention, Pat says, except that he later passed out. People die each day, his father told Pat, and he needed to muster the resolve to put the accident behind him and return to Ohio State, where he attended college on a full athletic scholarship.

In Columbus, however, Whalen's mood swings deepened and were exacerbated by an unrelated misfortune. His apartment caught fire in 2006 while he was cleaning it with ammonia and bleach. He began questioning his faith.

"I reached a point where I didn't think there was anything out there for me," he said. "I developed trust issues."

Whalen struggled academically and athletically. Few knew of the accident and had little context for his random outbursts. He hollered at athletes who weren't paying attention while competitors hurled shots, javelins, discs and hammers.

"Every emotion was magnified 100 percent in intensity and duration," OSU men's track coach Robert Gary said.

In the throes of depression, Whalen sequestered himself in his apartment and wouldn't answer the phone for a week at a time. Larson had to bang on his front door just to get his attention.

Whalen, now 23, credits several friends for helping him through his darkest days, but it was Larson, 26, who proved indispensable.

He found it easier to share his deepest thoughts with a woman. He cried in her company and revealed how it had become increasingly difficult to keep a steady girlfriend. Sometimes, Whalen and Larson just walked to a movie theater and escaped reality without saying a word.

She nicknamed him "the salmon," because Whalen is forever swimming against life's current.

"I've always looked at him as a little brother," said Larson, an assistant building coordinator for St. John Arena. "And you don't give up on family."

'Never blamed him'

Sheila Suzuki said she can't remember the last time she had thought of Patrick Whalen.

"I don't think about him because I never blamed him for what happened to my father," Shelia said. "I never for a moment thought it was his fault."

She also never found it odd that Whalen had not contacted her family.

"If I were in his place, I would be so scared," she said. "He's just a kid."

Sheila Suzuki misses her dad terribly and he remains a constant topic of conversation. Her brother, Vince, started a memorial youth fund in his father's honor.

The daughter is buoyed by the fact her dad died doing something he loved.

Shelia has become her mother's primary caregiver. Not long after the accident, Dorothy began exhibiting signs of dementia.

Each day brings new challenges, but the same haunting questions to her three kids:

Have you seen your father? He hasn't called. Do you know his number?

"In some ways this is her blessing," Sheila said. "My father is still not dead to her, he just isn't home yet."

Cautionary tale

For the past decade, Whalen has committed much of his life to throwing weights. Shot puts. Discuses. Metal balls attached to chains called hammers.

How could he have known the most difficult weight to release would be a metaphorical one?

Three weeks ago, Whalen suffered his first bout of depression in six months. It lasted just two days.

"They are less frequent than they used to be, and they don't last nearly as long," Larson said. "He is making progress. I think others would have crumpled under what happened to him."

There are no simple answers, Whalen says, no moments of clarity. He believes maturity, the support of friends, coaches and family, and time have enabled him to be free of antidepressants for a year.

Several months ago, Whalen received a letter from his father outlining the pride he had in his boy. Mike Whalen cried as he watched his son graduate in March with a degree in education.

The track coaches have seen a return to the ebullient athlete who talked so much as a freshman that they made him sit at least five seats behind them on bus trips. Whalen also has demonstrated leadership with a stable of freshmen throwers.

He is applying for a graduate assistant's opening at the University of Findlay and wants to pursue a master's degree in environmental sciences.

One reason for breaking his public silence on the accident, he says, is to raise awareness of the potential hazards involving field events. Whalen's story is unusual, but not unprecedented. In the past decade, there have been at least five deaths and numerous injuries worldwide involving field implements.

"You have to be alert at all times," Whalen said.

On a recent Friday night, Whalen stood in the shot put ring, a steel ball cradled in his right hand, staring at a dangerous situation only he seemed to recognize.

As competitors stretched and waited for him to throw, Whalen watched as a contestant walked with his back turned to the ring down the left boundary of the sector at Cedarville University.

After the unsuspecting participant cleared the area Whalen hurled the shot about 60 feet down the middle of the sector.

"You could tell Pat was eye-balling the kid," Buckeyes assistant Kevin Mannon said. "Most guys would have thrown. That kind of stuff makes Pat edgy."

Notoriously critical of his performances, Whalen has refused to make excuses for why he hadn't set a personal best in the shot put in two years. There have been injuries, difficulty with medications and the tragedy in 2005.

He hoped to fulfill his promise at his final Big Ten meet in Columbus but said he looked forward to the end of his throwing career.

"I'm ready to leave it behind me and find my new identity," he said.

Six days before the big contest, Whalen received word from a reporter that Sheila Suzuki had requested his contact information.

Would it be OK to release it?

"Sure," he said. "Just tell her to wait for a few more weeks until my last meets are over."

A greater victory

On a crisp Sunday afternoon, Whalen's friends and family gathered to watch his finest performance as a Buckeye in the Big Ten championships.

A day after a strong third-place finish in the discus, Whalen broke his personal best in the shot put with a throw of 60 feet, 8 inches on his first attempt in the finals.

As the distance was announced, he clapped his hands triumphantly. Twenty minutes later, Whalen's second attempt traveled 61 feet.

Just as it looked like he would win the title, Minnesota junior Aaron Studt followed with a throw of 61-6. Whalen fouled on his third and final attempt.

As he paced dejectedly, coaches and teammates congratulated him on his second-place finish, his best showing in a conference meet.

"I wanted it so badly," Whalen told his mother as they walked across the street to accept his silver medal in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

The Buckeyes men's team placed second, its best finish in eight years. Whalen was OSU's leading scorer in individual events with 14 points.

As the disappointment washed away, Whalen smiled and spoke of perhaps a greater achievement.

"Those last three throws were the first time since the accident that I didn't once think about the officials out there in the field," he said.

His mother, best friend, Buckeyes teammates and coaches applauded in the stands as Whalen received his medal in the infield. Officials, meanwhile, were busy setting up hurdles for the women's 400-meter race.

Whalen stepped down from the podium, congratulated Studt and walked across the track.

He looked both ways before crossing.

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Re: Official Struck and Killed by Shot Put

Unread postby Split » Thu Jun 25, 2009 3:30 pm

Very touching story :yes:
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Re: Official Struck and Killed by Shot Put

Unread postby BlackKnight55 » Tue Jun 30, 2009 10:36 am

this is a sad story but it is not the shot putters fault at all. i mean the throwing coach for our team always yells at us if we just run across the discus or shot sectors without looking i mean its the first rule of saftey to always look before you cross over the track or a jumps runway or a throwing sector. i know it would be hard for the thrower to not feel responsible but its not his fault at all as long as the suzuki was not in the sector when he checked before his throw. i mean i agree that changes need to be made if your doing another event and u have a chance at getting hit but this is not the case for this situation. this just goes to show that when you are at a track and field meet you must always keep your head on a swivel unless you are in the stands

i do feel bad for the family and hope they can make it through this hard time, but i feel worse for the thrower because i know people are hinting to him that that mans blood is on his hands when its not at all

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