I-TEAM : Reports show Fleming Park was not being inspected monthly

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Friday, October 26, 2018
(News 12 at 6 O’Clock / NBC 26 at 7)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The News 12 I-TEAM found the city wasn’t following their own policy to inspect every month. There is no inspection report for the last month at Fleming Athletic Complex. In fact, the last inspection report was from August 2018.

"I couldn't move! I was shocked! Electric fence!"

A community is devastated after three young boys were shocked on a ballpark fence at Fleming Athletic Complex.

"My head touched the gate and I just saw a light in my eyes and I closed my eyeballs and I thought I'd died at first," said 11-year-old David Sette.

The electric jolt killed 12-year-old Melquan Robinson.

A worker at Fleming Park wrote in a county repor about that night, "the fence was live with high volume of electricity."

City of Augusta workers are required to inspect facilities like, Fleming Park, every month to reduce risks.

News 12 got those inspection reports through an open records request , and found some months, the park was either not inspected or no report was done.

11 months since 2017 went un-inspected, including the month before the passing of Melquan Robinson.

The city inspection report forms ask the inspector to check to make sure "parking area lighting is operable" and if "electrical boxes are secured."

In all but one report in February 2018 the inspector deemed both categories "satisfactory."

On the Feb. 27, 2018 inspection report the inspector wrote about "a missing access plate for the light pole between field two and three."

On the inspection report three months later, in April, the problem seemed to be fixed.

The city responded to our stories on the inspections, saying "The city of Augusta, Georgia, strives to create a safe environment for the public and employees. Several safety-related policies are in place that enable department heads to direct staff to perform regular inspections of respective facilities."

While the city and Richmond County Sheriff's Office investigate the cause of Melquan's death, a community in mourning is waiting for answers.

It’s still not clear if an inspection would have picked up on the issue that caused his death.

News 12 reached out to the city spokesman this morning asking for an interview with the City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson, but we have not heard back.

The city also sent inspection reports from Bernie Ward Community Center in the 85 page response to our open record's request. The latest facilities inspection report for Bernie Ward is from October 1st. Fleming athletic Complex and Bernie Ward are inspected separately.

Thursday, October 25, 2018
(News 12 at 6 O’Clock / NBC 26 at 7)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Our I-TEAM got ahold of the rest of the inspection reports we asked for from Fleming Park. 12-year-old Melquan Robinson was electrocuted by a chain link fence at Fleming Park Oct. 15th. 

According to Richmond County's own policy, there should be a report for every month.  That means there should be 21 incident reports since Jan. 2017. ​

The county only sent us two reports originally. Thursday, after our investigation, the city sent us several more reports. 
We found no inspection reports for 11 of the 21 months since 2017 for Fleming Park.

No reports were provided for March, August, September, October and December 2017; or provided for January, March, April, June, July, September and October 2018 for Fleming Park. 

The majority of the inspections reports show "satisfactory" conditions at Fleming Park. 

A Feb. 14th inspection reports there was a "missing access plate for the light pole between Fields 2 & 3." The inspector was the Safety and Training Coordinator for Parks and Recreation, Christopher Yount.

The most recent inspection obtained by News 12 through an Open Records Request is from August 31, 2018. That's little less than 3 months ago. 
The report from August 2018 shows, at that time, "parking lighting was operable", "interior lighting was operable" and that "electrical boxes were secure."

An "Augusta Commission Incident Report" describing the electrocution of Melquan Robinson was also included in the open records request.

An Augusta-Richmond County worker wrote: "At approximately 9:00 pm Mr. Conley and myself were supervision a 9 and 10-year-old football game at the Fleming Complex on field 1 when several kids came running from field 2 starting and yelling a little boy was hurt and needed help."

The worker goes on to write "The child was reported to have been electrocuted. There were no visable wires exposed in the area of the incident. Power at the field has been shut off and will further be inspected by persons with expertise."

The open records request from the city did include several inspection reports for Bernie Ward Community Center.

There are facilities inspection reports for Bernie Ward from January, February, March, July, September and October.

The latest inspection report from Bernie Ward Community Center is from Oct. 1, 2018.

News 12 will continue to follow this developing story.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2018
(News 12 at 6 O’Clock / NBC 26 at 7)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Augusta officials say they plan to send "supplemental mailings" to News 12 after we found inspection reports for Fleming Park were missing from our request.

A 12-year-old boy named Melquan Robinson was electrocuted by a fence at the park in October.

We found Augusta-Richmond County's policy "requires the department safety officers to make monthly safety inspections of [...] facilities."

We asked for the inspection reports for Fleming Park for 2017 and 2018 under the Georgia Open Records law.

According to their own policy, there should be at least 21 inspection reports for Fleming Park, but we only got back two.

I asked about those reports and city spokesman, Jim Beasley, wrote " It is my understanding that you will be receiving a supplemental mailing from them."

The county also wrote in a statement that "Several safety-related policies are in place that enable department heads to direct staff to perform regular inspections of respective facilities."

The statement named the City's Central Services Department, Recreation Center Directors, Parks Safety Officers and the Risk Management Dicision as responsible for different aspects of inspection.

The city didn't mention in this statement the policy listed in the Policies, Personnel and Procedures Manual that outlines how often every departments "Safety and Traning Coordinator" is required to inspect facilities.

Monday, October 22, 2018
(News 12 at 6 O’Clock / NBC 26 at 7)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Our News 12 I-TEAM found some county inspection reports were not made available for the Fleming Athletic Complex, or they weren’t done at all.

The Augusta Personnel Policy and Procedures Manual "requires the department safety officers to make monthly safety inspections of [...] facilities."

We asked for the inspection reports for Fleming Park for 2017 and 2018 under the Georgia Open Records law.

According to their own policy, there should be at least 21 inspection reports for Fleming Park, but we only got back two inspection reports.

Both gave "satisfactory" marks for the "electrical boxes being secured" and "parking area lighting" being "operable."

We asked the Augusta-Richmond County spokesman several questions about the countys inspection process, but the county said they were "unable to respond."

Here's the full statement from County spokesman Jim Beasley:

"We are unable to respond to your request for additional information at this time as this matter is still being investigated and is being treated as potential litigation.

We expect to pull together some members of staff tomorrow to discuss our inspections process. Afterward, we hope to have additional information to share with you."

We will continue to follow-up on this story.

Friday, October 19, 2018
(News 12 at 11)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The city is in its third day of an investigation into what caused a fence to electrocute 12-year-old Melquan Robinson on Monday night at Fleming Park. Two of his friends, Traqwan and David, who were hurt trying to save him honored their friend at a ceremony Thursday evening.

At Melquan Robinson's vigil Thursday night his parents were surrounded by people who loved his son, including the two boys who tried to save his son.

“This is just as much about them as it is Melquan. This is just as much about uplifting them,” he said.

While the community mourns both the Richmond County Sheriffs Office and Augusta-Richmond County continues to investigate what happened.

The city will not tell us the name of the private firm accessing Fleming Athletic Complex and the six other parks the county says has similar wiring.

County spokesperson, Jim Beasley, sent a statement saying:

“ We feel it’s appropriate to protect the anonymity of the firm to help maintain the integrity of their investigation.”

The News 12 I-team sent an open records request for inspection reports at Fleming Park in 2017 and 2018.

We got a report from April 4, 2017, and May 22, 2018, back from the county.

Both showed the County Risk Management Inspector, Andy Oates, marked "satisfactory" by "electrical boxes being secured" and "the parking area lighting is operable."

Melquan Robinson was electrocuted by a fence at Fleming Athletic Complex five months later on October 15th, 2018.

Friday, October 19, 2018

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- News 12 has learned that 12-year-old Melquan Robinson will be laid to rest next weekend.

The service will happen around 2:30 p.m. on October 27th at Bealuh Grove.

Thursday, October 18, 2018
(News 12 at 6 O’Clock / NBC 26 at 7)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – The city of Augusta has started their assessment of other local city-operated parks, to be sure what happened to Melquan and his family doesn’t happen again. But the city won’t disclose to News 12 who is doing that assessment.

Mary Washington likes to walk around Diamond Lakes Park, which is one of the six being tested.

"It's something that you wouldn't expect to happen. You expect for these parks to be safe," Washington told us Thursday. "You wouldn't expect to just touch a fence and just have your life in danger just like that"

The city says the six parks all have similar wiring systems, which is why they're having them inspected.

"The city should look more into it. Maybe it’s just some mis-wiring of some of the electricals in these parks."

But the parks have a few more similarities including chain link fences, light poles and wiring systems appear to be underground. Checking them now may save another life, but it won't bring back Melquan.

"Of course it should've happened before as a preventative measure," Washington admits.

Now, she’s being a little more careful herself.

"For it to happen so unexpectedly, it makes you more of aware of your surroundings and what's going on. But who would expect touching a fence would end someone's life like that."

The city says they don't know how long it will take the firm to inspect each park, so right now we have no timeline for when we will get that information.

9:52 a.m.
AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- News 12 has learned details of a community vigil planned for Melquan Robinson, the 12-year-old who died after being electrocuted at a local park.

A family spokesperson says the memorial will take place tonight,
Thursday, October 18, at 6:00, at the Bernie Ward Community Center.
A stage with microphones will be set up for people to share their thoughts. Faith leaders are scheduled to speak, and the family will be present.

The public is invited to attend.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018
(News 12 at 6 O’Clock / NBC 26 at 7)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – 12-year-old Melquan Robinson’s football team is back to practicing Wednesday night at Meadowbrook Park. To help them, some local pastors are out there for anyone who needs to talk.

News 12 stopped by Fleming Park, where the accident happened, earlier in the day. A bouquet of white flowers lies by that fence where Melquan died Monday night.

The news of the accident spread fast. Raymond Webber, the owner of MCAG Athletic Development Center says he saw it on social media.

“I saw it shared a lot on my Facebook page. I saw Coach Stone share it, I saw Coach Ware share it, Coach Davenport shared it as well,” Webber told us.

Webber says the news about the young boy instantly reminded him of the times he himself lost teammates.

“It's one of those situations where you don't know if you can talk to anyone, you don't know how to talk, you don't know how to express yourself. You got all these feelings all these emotions. You're crying, you're hysterical and you just don't know what to say.”

The entire community is feeling the loss of the young athlete after he died throwing the ball with friends, climbing over a fence touched by an exposed underground wire.

"I just called up a bunch of churches and a bunch youth pastors, counselors. [I] reached out to anyone I knew that may have known anyone, just to bring out for these families and these kids to have somebody to talk to."

Melquan isn't here to play football anymore, but Webber says one of his Titan teammates, named Javarie, is playing for him.

“He's going to play the rest of the season in Melquan's honor.”

Webber tells us there will be about 12 youth pastors out at the field from McDuffie, Columbia and Richmond Counties Wednesday to do anything to help.

Melquan’s family is still planning to host a vigil Thursday night at the Bernie Ward Community Center. That will be open to the public.

4:35 p.m.
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Augusta City Administrator Janice Jackson has issued a statement after 12-year-old Melquan Robinson died Monday night.

"We remain concerned for the families of Melquan Robinson and the two other children injured in the accident Monday night at Fleming Athletic Complex. As a result, Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. and I have personally reached out to them.

The cause of the accident is still undetermined. Much of the information appearing in the news and social media, therefore, is unconfirmed. We ask the media to refrain from making statements about the cause of the accident, since the cause has not yet been determined.

In order to determine the cause of the accident at Fleming, the city of Augusta immediately engaged the services of a qualified firm that specializes in this type of work."

Since the accident, the city is ordering assessments of May Park, Diamond Lakes, McDuffie Woods, Eisenhour Athletic Complex, Newman Tennis Center and Fleming Tennis Center.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018
(News 12 First at 5 / News 12 at 6 O’Clock / NBC 26 at 7)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Five feet of fencing on either side of a light pole at Flemings Park had a live current of electricity running through it Monday night when 12-year-old Melquan Robinson tried to jump over it to grab a football.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, as are Augusta city officials and the Parks and Rec Department. Georgia Power is also looking into it, but they maintain their equipment is not responsible.

The sheriff's office will work with the city and Parks and Rec to get answers. Center Services and the city administration are also involved in the investigation. Georgia Power says they will help them both if they have any questions.

It's too soon at this point to know about who is responsible or who may face charges. No one is giving a timeline on the investigation either.

Melquan was playing football in a youth league run by the city of Augusta. The league plays games at Fleming Park, where the accident happened, May Park and Eisenhower Park.

They have several other sports going on right now, including soccer and baseball. Games scheduled to be played at Fleming Park this week have been canceled. The rest of the season's games will be moved to Diamond Lakes.

The city isn’t saying much at this point, but Commissioner Marion Williams does tell News 12 they’ve got to get to the bottom of it.

“A lot of parts that have to be answered on this, but before we make any rash decisions I want to be sure that we hear everything. I want to make sure we look at every possible means over this happening and find out who's at fault,” Williams told us Tuesday.

Activities at the Bernie Ward Center, where Fleming Park is located, are likely not going to happen for the length of the city's investigation. City leaders did meet right before the start of the commission meeting to discuss the accident, but it was very unofficial and no decisions were made.

4:00 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- News 12 has learned that one of the two young who tried to help 12-year-old Melquan is still in ICU.

According to his mother, the young boy is doing alright but doctors have some concerns about muscle break down which could lead to more unfavorable conditions.

The child's mother says her heart is breaking for Melquan's family.

We will continue to follow this story and bring you more information as it becomes available.

2:20 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Georgia Power tells News 12 they conducted their own investigation Monday night and determined none of their equipment malfunctioned to cause electricity to run through the fence.

A spokesman for the power company says they are working with the city to answer questions and determine what happened since everything was running fine on their end.

The city of Augusta says all activities and scheduled games at Fleming Park have been canceled for the rest of this week, at least. The remainder of this season will be moved to Diamond Lakes.

Games have also been canceled for Tuesday night at Eisenhower.

Melquan Robinson's football team, the Trinity Elite Titans, have put a statement on their Facebook page about the two other boys injured in the accident. It reads:

"Our Titans family wanna send our prayers out to the families of the two brave young men who tried to save our teammate last night. You, two young men, are true heroes in the CSRA.......Thank you for your brave actions!!!!"

1:00 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Georgia Power has issued a statement about 12-year-old Melquan Robinson's death.

“Georgia Power’s condolences and sympathies are with the individuals and their families following last night’s tragic event at Fleming Athletic Complex. Our preliminary investigation indicates that Georgia Power does not control or maintain the voltage that energized the fence at the complex. We will continue to work with local officials on their investigation.”

12:15 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- At least two children were sent to the hospital after trying to help 12-year-old Melquan Robinson down from the fence as he was being electrocuted.

An incident report by the Richmond County Sheriff's Office says, during a game, the football went over the fence. That's when Robinson began to climb over the fence to retrieve it, causing the shock.

One of the two other boys was taken to the hospital before deputies got to him, while the other told deputies they were trying to help Robinson off the fence.

We're looking to find out the condition of the two boys who helped Robinson, and we will bring that information as soon as we get it.

11:45 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The Richmond County Sheriff's Office says they are conducting an investigation into the accidental death of Melquan Robinson.

Melquan died after being electrocuted by a fence during a football game at Fleming Athletic Complex Monday evening. We're told an underground wire was touching the chainlink fence. The fence was carrying the current when the 12-year-old touched it.

A county worker tells News 12 the voltage was extremely high in that area, but it's unclear why the wire was hot.

Deputies say they are working with the City of Augusta and the Parks and Recreation Department.

Two other children were taken to the hospital deputies say. The two young boys were trying to pull the Melquan free from the fence apparently charged by a live wire.

Deputies say the City of Augusta could investigate this independently as well.

A power crew is working to isolate the power in that spot Tuesday afternoon.

10:41 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr., releases a statement in the death of 12-year-old Melquan Robinson, the boy who died after being electrocuted by a fence at a local park during a community football game:

"The Augusta community is deeply saddened to learn of a tragic accident involving four Augustans at the Fleming Athletic Complex last evening. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of all involved in this accident.

We ask Augustans to stand together to extend our condolences and embrace the family of Melquan Kwame Robinson with love during this sudden and unexpected loss.

A thorough investigation is now underway."

Stay with News 12/NBC26 for developments.

9:48 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- News 12 has learned the two young boys who survived the incident were trying to pull the young boy who was killed free from the fence apparently charged by a live wire.

This happened Monday night at Fleming Park near Bernie Ward Community Center during a youth football game.

Stay with News 12 NBC 26 as this story develops.

4:05 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) — The Richmond County Coroner says a child has died after apparently being electrocuted at the Bernie Ward Community Center.

The coroner says 12-year-old Melquan Kwame Robinson was playing football when he ran off the field of play into a chain link fence. A live wire was reportedly touching the fence.

Melquan grabbed onto the fence as he ran into it and was electrocuted, according to the coroner.

The child was taken to the Children’s Hospital of Georgia by EMS where he was pronounced dead at 9:56 pm.

The coroner says Melquan will be taken to the GBI Lab for an autopsy today.

12:29 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The Richmond County Sheriff's Office says one child is dead and two more are in the hospital after possibly being electrocuted.

Investigators tell us it happened early Monday evening at Bernie Ward Community Center. They say the two children who were hurt don't appear to have life-threatening injuries.

Law enforcement are continuing to investigate and we will be on your side as we learn more.