Photo: A fallen column in the amphitheatre. Two men were injured Saturday night when they hung a hammock from a tree to one of the columns and the column fell.
By LINDLEY ESTES
Late Saturday night, two future U.S. Marines from Stafford County were injured after a column in the UMW amphitheatre fell on them.
The men, ages 19 and 20, strung a hammock between one of the columns in the amphitheatre and a nearby tree. The hammock supported the weight of the first man, but when the second man joined him the column toppled on them both.
One was knocked unconscious while the other was able to dial 911.
The UMW police department was notified of the situation at 11:56 p.m. by the Fredericksburg 911 Center and was asked to assist the responding EMS paramedics.
The paramedics found one to have injuries to his feet and ankles, while the other had injuries to his head and chest.
They were transported to Mary Washington Hospital where the man with foot and ankle injuries was released early Sunday morning. The other man remains hospitalized and the extent of his injuries was currently unknown as of Monday morning, according to Susan Knick, assistant vice president of public safety and community services.
“One of the males stated that they were just hanging out before going into the U.S. Marines next month,” Knick said in reference to a verbal statement given by the man to the UMW police. “He knew of the amphitheatre as a place where they could sit and talk.”
The amphitheatre has been an area of concern for the university for some time.
Douglas Sanford, chair of the department of historic preservation, said that the amphitheatre clearly has safety issues. Neglect and lack of maintenance have led to these conditions, as well as vandalism and the use of the amphitheatre for skateboarding.
“For example, years ago the connecting lattice work between the columns was removed, causing the columns to become less stable,” Stanford said. “A regular program of inspection, cleaning and maintenance would improve the amphitheatre’s appearance, safety and appropriate use. Any building or structure left alone for a couple of decades will become a hazard of one type or another.”
According to the historic preservation department, the amphitheatre needs close study and documentation of its conditions. This would involve professionals in the historic preservation field to perform what is called a historic structure report, understanding current conditions, future needs and recommendations.
“Determining the future uses of the amphitheatre would guide both the costs of a restoration and any alterations to the amphitheatre to fit those uses,” Sanford said.
“I do have concerns about accessibility of the area for those with mobility issues,” Knick said. “Given this weekend’s incident, I have concerns about the structure and its access in general. What happened this weekend was a highly unfortunate incident and I do not think it was ever anticipated that individuals would string a hammock or other device from one of the columns.”
Rick Pearce, acting vice president for administration and finance and chief financial officer, said the school does not consider the amphitheatre to be a significant safety issue, since it has not been officially used since the 1960s.
However, Pearce said that proposed renovations would include landscaping, repairs to the existing structure and making the location accessible. The entire project would cost upwards of $2 million.