An Ages man was injured in what the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office is investigating as a criminal mischief or possibly a booby trapping incident that occurred in a park in Ages Wednesday evening.
Vandals apparently cut two basketball goals weighing approximately 600 pounds in the park. One of the goals fell causing injury to Justin Rowe, who was air-lifted to Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport.
“A call was made to 911 and deputies were dispatched out to the Ages Community Park at approximately 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday,” said Sheriff Marvin Lipfird. “Upon arrival, Deputies Dee Dee Ulbrich and Chris Brewer found several kids from the Ages community had been playing basketball at the park when one of the boys jumped up to dunk the basketball. When he grabbed the rim, the whole pole, goal and all started coming toward them. He couldn’t get out of the way, being 10 feet in the air, and the whole assembly came down on him.”
Lipfird said an ambulance service was notified and it was decided to air-lift Rowe to Holston Valley Medical Center for his injuries.
“I was actually out in the community visiting friends with my wife when I got a call from Magistrate Bill Moore saying he had gone to the park and looked at the pole and felt something was amiss,” said Lipfird. “Upon my arrival, I could clearly see saw blade marks on the pole right at the ground level where you wouldn’t notice it. The pole had not been cut completely into, but was cut close enough that if it was touched slightly it would fall. We began looking at another basketball goal at the park and it was cut the same way and could have easily fallen had other children been playing on that goal too. We decided to go ahead and push the other basketball goal down so that no one could be injured from it falling”
Lipfird said he sent deputies to each district in the county to check other parks to see if this had occurred on any other basketball goals or other playground equipment. He said his deputies found that the Ages Park was the only one vandalized.
Moore, who was also notified of the incident, went to the park. He said he was told “it was lucky more children were not injured when this large metal basketball goal fell to the ground.”
The magistrate said “this is sad” when people resort to this type of behavior, which had the potential of being devastating to the community and especially the victim and his family.
“Someone could have been killed,” said Moore. “If anyone sees anything like this going on, please call the police. It could save someone’s life.”
Lipfird said “this is a bad situation and he doesn’t know why anyone would do something like this at a community park.
“We have opened a criminal investigation into the matter,” said Lipfird. “It’s either criminal mischief or borderline booby trapping. If you do something like this and set it up to fall on someone and injure them it’s a felony. It could have been someone cutting the poles to lay them down later and sell them for the iron, because metal prices are up. We’re just not sure, but we’ll do our best to find out. Someone will be charged with something in regard to this incident.”
Holston Valley Medical Center confirmed that Rowe was discharged from their facility on Thursday.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at firstname.lastname@example.org