Youth soccer league failed to heed safety warning

The local youth soccer league failed to adequately secure the goal posts on the nets near Sixth Street School even though it received a letter from the board of education asking it do so back in September, 1995.
In a letter from former Education Director John McLeod addressed to league president Gord Witherspoon, the board expressed concern regarding the safety of the children playing near them and requested the nets be removed if they were not “secured properly.”
Last Wednesday, a seven-year-old boy from Sixth Street School required surgery at La Verendrye hospital after one of the nets–which was not secured into the ground–fell on top of him in the field adjacent to the school around noon.
The mishap occurred less than a minute after the noon-hour supervisor had warned a group of children not to play around the nets, teacher Diane Maxey said last week.
The metal-framed nets, which Witherspoon said had been used by the youth soccer league for about four years, were removed by the town last Thursday. The league will pylons for goals for the rest of the season, and already has hinted it may switch venues to Westfort next year.
Witherspoon said the league had used a “different type” of net in the past but those broke too easily and had to be replaced.
Witherspoon also said he didn’t “remember” the letter in question, and added the league previously had tried to secure the nets down. But he noted the ground around the nets was too “soft,” and that kids playing in the area were prone to pull them out of the ground.
George Bell, Community Services manager for the town, also said he was unaware of the school board’s letter.
But Lanny Freeman, head of maintenance with the local board of education, said he did remember the letter–and also spoke of anchoring down the nets as a result of that same letter three years ao.
He also admitted he didn’t know why the net which toppled over wasn’t securely in place at the time of the mishap.
Freeman is in charge of securing the much larger, regulation-sized goal posts on the soccer nets at Westfort. Those posts, he said, were “pegged” down with what he called 3/4 of an inch to an inch of “rebar” that was driven into the ground.
Those nets can be moved to accommodate the Muskie football team.
Ironically, Witherspoon said the league was in the process of implementing a new system to hold down the nets before the accident occurred. But when asked why it took nearly three years to address the problem, he replied, “You’re talking to one person running the league.”
Sixth Street principal Linda Hill was unavailable for comment, and the boy’s mother declined to comment on the incident when contacted by the Times on Monday evening.