February 27, 2014

A 9-year-old Creston girl suffered multiple head fractures Saturday when she fell from the top of a set of bleachers in the IKM-Manning High School gymnasium during a basketball tournament.

The girl and her mother had apparently ignored a sign that warned spectators from sitting on the bleachers - which had been retracted to allow two games to be played at a time - and climbed onto the bleachers from stairs that lead to the gym's mezzanine, said Tom Ward, the school district's superintendent.

"With signs posted, they shouldn't have been up there," he said. "Any staff we had there should have moved them off."

Omaha television news station WOWT identified the girl and her mother as Harlee and Bobbie Flynn. The station aired photos from the tournament that show numerous people sitting on the bleachers, purportedly due to a lack of other seating.

The Flynns could not be reached this morning to comment for this article.

The girl fell about 20 feet to the wood floor, and she was later taken by medical helicopter to a Des Moines hospital, Ward said. He was unsure of the exact time the girl fell but said he was notified about 12:30 p.m.

The tournament - which included 40 teams of fifth- to eighth-grade students who played in gyms in Manning, Manilla and Irwin from 8 a.m. to about 4 p.m. - was a fundraiser for the IKM-Manning Foundation, which donates money for technology in the district's schools, Ward said.

The Manning gym hosted seventh- and eighth-grade players. A team from the girl's hometown was playing at the time of her fall.

The girl is recovering, and her head will be braced for the next two weeks, Ward said. "She's doing pretty well right now."

Workers will install gates to prevent people from climbing from the mezzanine stairs, through a bannister and onto the bleachers to prevent future falls, he said.

"It was an avoidable situation," Ward said. "Our concern was, first and foremost, that it's not going to happen again."

He declined to say whether any of the tournament staff members were negligent by failing to remove the child, her mother and other spectators from the restricted area.