Parents sue NCAA over Wheaton College freshman's death at track and field competition

  • Ethan Roser, 19, was killed in 2017 while volunteering at a Wheaton College track and field meet. He was struck in the head by a flying hammer.

    Ethan Roser, 19, was killed in 2017 while volunteering at a Wheaton College track and field meet. He was struck in the head by a flying hammer. courtesy of Wheaton College

 
 
Updated 3/25/2019 8:55 PM

The parents of a Wheaton College freshman who died in 2017 after he was accidentally struck in the head during a hammer throw event have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The seven-page lawsuit filed Thursday in Chicago's federal court by Ethan Roser's father, Mark Roser, alleges the Indianapolis-based association was negligent by failing to enact minimum size requirements for safety cages; that it failed to require trained officials at track and field events; and that officials failed to warn Ethan of the risks posed by the cage meeting only minimum height requirements.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Ethan Roser, 19, was volunteering during the 2017 Don Church Twilight Track and Field Championships Meet on April 22, 2017, at Wheaton College when he was struck in the head by a 16-pound hammer -- a steel wire attached to a heavy metal ball -- that was thrown by a competitor and escaped the safety cage area.

Mark Roser's attorney, Jeffrey Martin, said the suit was filed because the NCAA failed to ensure Ethan's safety despite prior incidents of victims being struck by hammers.

"Tragically, Ethan was standing in a designated safety zone when he was fatally struck in the head by an errant hammer. No parent should ever have to endure such a horrible loss of a child," Martin said Monday. "Had the NCAA heeded recommendations to increase the size of the cage around the hammer throwers, this incident would not have occurred. The family's hearts will forever be broken."

NCAA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wheaton police ultimately determined that Ethan Roser was watching two other volunteers playing with a stick during warmups rather than focusing on the hammer throw event.

Police said Roser had finished his shift marking where the throws landed but had stayed to cover for another volunteer when he was hit by the hammer.

The suit seeks a jury trial and at least $75,000 for each of the three accusations of negligence outlined in the suit.

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