Search for answers in girl's death

Family mourns as officials investigate park electrocution

May 07, 2006|By DAVID KOHN | DAVID KOHN,SUN REPORTER

A day after a 14-year-old girl was accidentally electrocuted during a church league softball game in Druid Hill Park, her parents remembered her as someone who loved singing and football. Meanwhile, others questioned how such an accident could happen.

The girl, Deanna Green of Randallstown, died Friday night after touching a metal fence that had become electrically charged. It is not yet clear how the fence became electrified.

The Baltimore City Parks and Recreation Department said in a statement yesterday that the accident "appears to have been caused by contact between a portion of the fence and an underground power line; both have been in place for a number of years."

A Baltimore Gas and Electric spokeswoman said that BGE's investigation "did not find any problem with our equipment that would have contributed to the incident."

The Recreation and Parks Department said that three city agencies -- Recreation and Parks, Public Works, and the Department of Transportation -- would investigate the accident together, and were inspecting "all fencing on lighted ball fields."

A spokeswoman for Verizon, Sandra Arnett, said the company's technicians were continuing to investigate to see whether any of its cable was involved. "We don't find it to be ours. We're still looking," she said.

The mayor's office did not return repeated calls yesterday.

Witnesses gave the following account of the incident: At about 8 p.m. Friday, as Deanna was waiting for her turn at bat, she put her foot on a metal fence running along the field. She then twisted and grabbed hold of a parallel metal fence. As soon as she touched the second fence, she flopped down and lost consciousness.

"It looked like she was in a really, really deep sleep," said James Scott, 27, of Baltimore, a teammate who was standing a few feet from her at the time. The girl's mother, Nancy Green, was sitting next to her daughter when the accident happened.

Someone immediately called 911, and an ambulance arrived within eight minutes, according to a city Fire Department spokesman. As paramedics worked to save her, 30 to 40 people gathered in a circle at the pitcher's mound to pray. Deanna was taken to Sinai Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

At first, no one realized that Deanna had been electrocuted. Scott said he thought she might have fainted. But according to softball league commissioner Carolyn Bethea, who was playing in a game on the adjacent field and came over after the accident, police arrived and saw wires hanging loosely from poles around the field. She said they became concerned about the possibility that an electrical hazard may have played a role and called BGE. Gesturing around Druid Hill Park to wires on poles, Scott said yesterday that "I find it hard to believe that if we were in a different setting, that these wires would have been left like that."

Deanna played for Colonial Baptist Church in Randallstown, one of 16 teams in the Christian Coed Softball League. The team is made up primarily of adults; she was one of the few young people in the league.

Bethea said she stayed at the field until 1 a.m., watching BGE workers try to locate the source of the possible charge. She said they were still working when she left.

"Just from the reaction of the BGE guys, you could tell something was going on," she said after returning to the field yesterday. "One [BGE employee] kept hollering out to another: `Cut it off! Cut it off!' It must've been a wire from underground that gave [the fence] the charge."

BGE spokeswoman Linda Foy said that the work "was part of our investigation to determine if there was any problem."

By morning, one of the fences had been dismantled. The chain links were removed and one of the four metal fence posts had been taken out of the ground. Painted red marks were visible where the fence was removed.

Wires that had been hanging within 5 feet of the ground the night before had been rolled up and coiled 30 feet high.

Yesterday afternoon, the Greens' house in Randallstown was filled with dozens of friends and relatives.

Deanna's father, Anthony Green, remembered his daughter as someone who was particularly close to her older brother, Tony, 17. An eighth-grader at Deer Park Middle Magnet School, she loved to sing and play the piano. She sang opera and was a member of the Colonial Baptist Church choir. Her father said she and her mother sometimes sang duets in the car.

Deanna, who was named after her grandmothers, Delores and Annabelle, was also a football fan. She and her father, a former Baltimore Colts defensive tackle, regularly went to Ravens games, where she loved to cheer loudly. She was a good athlete; in her first at-bat Friday night, she hit a single that drove in two runs.

"She will always be in my thoughts and prayers," her father said. "That's a piece of my heart."

Bethea, who plays for a team sponsored by the Set The Captives Free Outreach Center, said a city parks employee told her Friday night that the two fields were now "off limits." In its statement, the department said the fields were closed until further notice.

Although the fields were empty yesterday morning, there was no sign warning of possible danger. Bethea was incredulous. "There was a kid's soccer game here before," she said, pointing to a field next to the two softball fields.

"This is not supposed to happen at a softball game," Bethea said yesterday, blinking back tears. A few feet away stood the remaining fence posts, shining in the bright sun. "This is just a senseless tragedy. A 14-year-old baby is not here. That's crazy."

david.kohn@baltsun.com

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