Leave it to Philadelphia fans to make the best of what could have been a catastrophic situation. In this case, an almost 10-foot fall at FedEx Field that could have left Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts and several fans injured.
Andrew Collins, 26, traveled from Brooklawn, N.J., to watch Sunday’s matchup against the Washington Football Team. After the 20-16 Eagles win, which helped clinch the team’s playoff berth, Hurts made his way to the locker room.
Collins, three friends, and a handful of other Eagles fans flocked to the bleachers closest to the North Field Tunnel with hopes to high-five and snap photos of Hurts.
The railing the fans leaned on gave way as Hurts walked by and the revelers missed falling on Hurts by mere inches. Collins’ immediate reaction was to apologize to Hurts and make sure the fans hadn’t injured the quarterback in the fall.
Hurts was fine and only seemed interested in the fans’ well-being.
“It was actually insane how calm, cool, and collected he was about everything and how well he handled that situation,” said Collins, who said the quarterback gave him one of his gloves. “He was like, ‘Don’t worry about me, are you OK?’”
Collins said the Washington Football Team did not offer the same response to the tumble.
According to an initial team statement, no one appeared to be seriously injured.
“To our knowledge, everyone was offered onsite medical evaluation and left the stadium of their own accord,” read the statement.
Collins said he and his friends were not offered any assistance.
“All they were trying to do is pull us up and get us out of [the field],” he said, adding that the two women he was with, one of them his girlfriend, suffered bruising.
A third friend, Mike Naimoli, 26, said his hand got trapped under the barricade when they fell.
“Obviously, there was a bunch of people on the barricades,” Naimoli said. “That was applying pressure and made my fingers go numb for a second and turn purple instantly.”
Still, Naimoli’s instinct was to shake off the pain and get a selfie with Hurts. It wasn’t until the drive home to Sicklerville that the adrenaline wore off and he began to feel the pain return in his hand and neck.
Naimoli spent the night waiting at Inspira Medical Center Mullica Hill, where he said doctors told him he had no broken bones but would need to get an MRI exam if the neck pain and headache persist.
A Washington Football Team spokesperson told The Inquirer the incident was being investigated and could not comment on specific allegations, but said the area Collins and fans were in is an ADA-designated section. Unlike other stadium spaces, where safety railings are anchored in concrete, the ADA section’s railing is welded to a wheelchair ramp and is not meant to be load-bearing.
Football fans and pundits, however, didn’t waste a moment to share criticisms of FedEx Field’s infrastructure, some sharing videos of leaks pouring directly over seats.
Eagles radio announcer Merrill Reese has been open about his dislike for the venue, citing the broadcast booth’s poor placement among his gripes. On Monday, Reese weighed in on the collapse.
“Believe me, FedEx Field is a dump and there’s no other way to describe it,” Reese told KYW’s Dave Uram.
The incident reminded Reese and others of a disastrous 1998 collapse at Veterans Stadium during the annual Army-Navy game. The railing in front of temporary bleachers gave way. Ten students were injured; the most serious included a cadet who suffered a broken neck and would go on to win a $1 million settlement.
Robert Mongeluzzi, with Saltz Mongeluzzi & Bendesky, has represented victims in high-profile incidents such as the railing failure at a Snoop Dogg concert in Camden, the Tropicana Casino and Resort garage collapse, and the cadet whose neck was broken at the Vet.
For Mongeluzzi, railing systems are part of the design of a stadium, and it’s predictable that fans would want to gather at a railing with a view of the players’ exit.
If you’re adding an ADA ramp, which is entirely appropriate and part of the law, that doesn’t mean that you therefore weaken the railings so that if people press against them, they’re going to fail.”
And if for some reason there is no workaround, Mongeluzzi said it’s the organization’s job to make sure no crowds are congregating.
Collins said he and friends asked stadium staff if they could travel more than 10 rows down to this section of the stadium and there were no objections.
While angry at the statement that no one was injured and that he and his friends were rushed back onto the bleachers, Collin said the one silver lining was getting to meet his hero.
“I feel like a little kid getting this glove right now,” he said.