Mississippi State

MSU stadium was locked, but Jumbotron questions remain

MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY/2012 
 Mississippi State chief communications officer Sid Salter said Monday, May 9, 2016, that Davis Wade Stadium was locked when a student from Ocean Springs fell from the Jumbotron and died from his injuries on Saturday morning.
MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY/2012 Mississippi State chief communications officer Sid Salter said Monday, May 9, 2016, that Davis Wade Stadium was locked when a student from Ocean Springs fell from the Jumbotron and died from his injuries on Saturday morning.

STARKVILLE -- Davis Wade Stadium was locked when a Mississippi State student died from injuries suffered from a fall inside the facility's video board on Saturday morning.

However, it's still unclear whether a maintenance door, which three students used to climb inside the Jumbotron, was locked.

Mississippi State chief communications officer Sid Salter said Monday that the door was supposed to be locked.

"I can't tell you with any assurance that it was or that it wasn't," Salter said. "There does appear over the period from 2008 forward that there have been episodes of vandalism not just at that point but at other spots."

Mississippi State has no recorded history within the last two years of anyone trespassing into Davis Wade Stadium. The climb within the Jumbotron reached public knowledge on a popular MSU message board Six Pack Speak in 2013. The Clarion-Ledger confirmed the prevalence and the ease of students sneaking into Davis Wade Stadium through multiple alumni and sources within the athletic department.

"I don't feel too bad about the effort the university put forward to secure the stadium," Salter said. "If I look at one thing that we've got to do a better job, and we're going to do a better job of, is we're going to educate our faculty, students and staff."

Mississippi State junior Andrew Demboski and two male students climbed the fence outside the stadium then used the maintenance door to climb to the top of the video board through a series of ladders and landings, according to Salter.

During the descent, the Ocean Springs native then fell through a landing that couldn't support his weight. He was pronounced dead at the scene at about 2:50 a.m., more than an hour before MSU police received the emergency call.

First responders needed to cut through a chain and lock to enter the stadium. Because of his location, they used a basket and a system of pulleys to lower Demboski. A medical helicopter landed at the Junction, but the student's health never stabilized to transport him.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his friends and his classmates," Salter said.

The two students that were with Dembowski will not be prosecuted for trespassing at this time.

"They've been through a very difficult emotional trauma," Salter said. "At this time our focus is on supporting the Dembowski family, their loved ones and that includes these two friends who witnessed this tragedy."

Salter acknowledged the lack of security at the stadium 40 and 50 years ago. Since 2001, though, Mississippi State has taken steps to make Davis Wade Stadium more secure.

"The stadium is locked for a reason and that it is trespassing, a serious crime for anyone to enter that locked facility," Salter said. "During my student days anyone could enter the stadium 24 hours a day. But with each expansion of the stadium have come increased new security measures."

The university will look into fortifying security as it continues to investigate the incident that left one student dead.

Salter made it clear throughout a 20-minute press conference, though, that anyone who trespasses into the stadium again will face criminal charges.

"It's the intent of the university in the future to prosecute any future trespasses to the fullest extent of the state law," Salter said, "and that students will be subject to the very harshest administrative sanctions."

Read more at The Clarion-Ledger.

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