Death leads to park repairs

City plan targets Druid Hill, 3 other sites in aftermath of girl's electrocution

July 20, 2006|By LYNN ANDERSON | LYNN ANDERSON,SUN REPORTER

Underground electrical cables at a ball field at Baltimore's Druid Hill Park will be replaced as part of a "corrective action plan" issued by city parks and recreation officials as a result of the May electrocution of a 14-year-old Randallstown girl.

The plan - which also calls for the inspection and possible replacement of cables at lighted ball fields at Patterson, Latrobe and Riverside parks - was completed earlier this month and shared with The Sun after the newspaper filed a formal request for information under the state's Public Information Act.

Inspections and repairs at all four parks are expected to be completed within a year, said Connie A. Brown, director of the city parks system. Work at the Druid Hill ball field where Deanna Green was electrocuted May 5 is scheduled to begin in November and should be finished by January, he said.

"We will be looking at the fields in more detail to see what we need to address to bring them up to current code," said Brown, noting that many of the cables at the ball fields are relatively old.

The Sun also requested three consultants' reports regarding the electrocution, but Baltimore Chief Solicitor Linda C. Barclay declined to release the documents. In a July 13 response to the paper, Barclay said the reports were prepared for the city in anticipation of potential litigation and were therefore protected under state law.

City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler defended that stance yesterday. He said he could not even talk about the content of the documents with a reporter over the telephone.

"What I believe is that there may be litigation," he said. "I am not going to discuss what the reports are about."

Tyler said he could keep the reports out of public view for up to three years in anticipation of legal action by Green's family.

A spokesman for the family said yesterday that the Greens were working with an attorney but had yet to file a lawsuit.

"The family is still in the grieving process and they are still trying to get on with their lives after this terrible tragedy," said Jose Anderson, an attorney and close friend of the Green family. "It is still so fresh."

Deanna Green was playing softball with her mother and members of her church. The 14-year-old was electrocuted when she touched two metal fences - one with an unprotected post tip that had come in contact with an underground cable - at the same time, completing an electrical circuit.

The girl's death upset the members of many social softball leagues that also use Druid Hill Park. They said they had complained for years about poor maintenance at the park but had seen few improvements. Part of the problem, according to Brown and other city officials, is that money for such repairs has been scant.

However, Brown said yesterday that he didn't expect to have any trouble getting the money necessary to execute his plan. "We have received no restrictions on getting the system up to date," he said. "That is our plan."

In recent months, the ball field where Green was electrocuted, field No. 8, as well as nearby field No. 7, which has lights that are powered by the same electrical system, have been used for daytime games only, Brown said. All electrical wiring associated with the incident has been shut off and is not in use. Temporary lighting units that run off generators has been brought in for summer festivals, he said.

lynn.anderson@baltsun.com

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