A 13-year old girl who was struck in the head by a puck during a Columbus Blue Jacket game Saturday night died Monday night of her injuries.
Brittanie Cecil was struck during the Blue Jackets' game against the Calgary Flames at Nationwide Arena.
"The Columbus Blue Jackets and Nationwide Arena are deeply saddened by the tragic accident," Blue Jacket President and General Manager Doug MacLean said in a statement. "Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to Brittanie's family and friends during this time of anguish. I can't imagine the grief her family is experiencing."
The tragedy occurred during a season in which the NHL has pushed team and arena officials to increase their warnings to fans in the lower areas of arenas. Fans are not allowed to enter those areas while games are in progress. Ushers at all NHL games carry red signs with the words, "Stop: NHL puck policy."
Cecil, who went to the game as a birthday present from her father--she would have turned 14 today--was injured after a puck shot by Blue Jacket center Espen Knutsen deflected off a defenseman's stick and went over the protective glass. It struck another fan before hitting Cecil, who is from Preble County, located in Ohio near the Indiana border.
She is believed to be the first fan to die after being struck by a puck at an NHL game. Frank Brown, NHL spokesman, said Tuesday that he could not recall another fan death resulting from being hit by a puck at an NHL game. However, there have been tragic accidents at minor league and amateur games.
In 1984, a 10-year old boy was killed after being struck by a puck during an exhibition game between the Spokane Chiefs and Spokane Eagles. A 21-year-old Canadian man died in March 2000, a week after being struck by a puck that flew into the stands during a South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League game between Altona and Carman. In 1979, a 9-year-old girl died after being hit in the forehead during another game in Canada.
One nonfatal accident in the NHL resulted in a lawsuit. Jonathan Liebert was injured at the Great Western Forum when he was struck in the head by a puck shot into the stands by San Jose Shark winger Joe Murphy after the Kings had scored during a 1998 game. Liebert sued Murphy, the Sharks and the Kings, claiming he had suffered memory loss and damaged vision. He settled out of court for what was believed to be $3 million.
Team and arena officials warn fans about the dangers of errant pucks. As many as seven hardened rubber pucks reach the crowd during an average game, some traveling at 100 mph.
"We have the public-address announcer tell the fans to be alert at all times while the puck is in play, before the game and before every period," King spokesman Mike Altieri said. "We have the same announcement up on the video screen for 10 minutes during warmups."
Altieri said the announcement is repeated during games in which more pucks than usual reach the crowd. Fans are not allowed to enter the seating area at Staples Center while play is in progress.
"We don't want anyone's vision blocked while the game is going on,"' Altieri said.
Announcements are made twice during Mighty Duck games at the Arrowhead Pond, reminding fans to stay alert. Event management officials check on fans in areas where pucks land and Pond officials have emergency medical units in the building.