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Police: Teen drank alcohol before fatal fall from turbine

Aaron Krause • Jun 17, 2011 at 10:13 AM

A 17-year-old boy who fell to his death from a wind turbine generator was drinking alcohol before climbing to the top, according to a Bellevue Police report.

Ernie W. Garcia, 17, was transported to the Bellevue Hospital in a private vehicle and later was transferred to a Toledo medical facility, where he was pronounced dead.

(NOTE - To read the full police report, click the link at the end of this story.)

Garcia and another boy entered the structure of the wind turbine generator on the Bellevue Senior High School property. At some point on his ascent to the top, Garcia lost his footing and fell onto the floor, police said.

A police report reveals new details about the incident.

On Monday afternoon, two boys arrived at the Bellevue police station wishing to speak with an officer.

"My friend is dead," one of the boys told Sgt. Mark Kaufman.

Drinking at the reservoir

Kaufman asked the youth to start from the beginning.

The boy told Kaufman that on Sunday evening, he and Garcia met at the reservoir. Garcia had a bottle of liquor, the boy said.

"He advised that the two of them stayed at the reservoir and drank the whole bottle, saying that Garcia probably drank more than he did, but stated that both were 'pretty drunk,'" Kaufman's report reads.

The two started walking back toward town when another friend driving a vehicle spotted them and picked them up. The three drove to one of the boy's neighborhoods, and the driver dropped Garcia and his friend off on Northwest Street. The motorist drove away.

Wind turbine looks enticing

At this point, Garcia saw the wind turbine at the Bellevue Senior High School, said he'd like to climb it and coaxed his friend to do the same.

The boys discovered the door to the base of the turbine unlocked and entered. This is where the ladder is located. Garcia started to climb the ladder and his friend followed. At some point, Garcia fell off the ladder, and in doing so, as he fell, nearly knocked his friend off the ladder.

Garcia's friend said he fell all the way to the floor and estimated they may have been as high as three quarters of the way up. School grounds officials told police the tower is about 125 feet high.

Garcia's friend said he climbed back down to check on Garcia, who was unconscious. The boy said he panicked and called the other friend (who drove them to Northwest Street) to pick them up and take them to a hospital.

"Garcia was unconscious the whole time and had to be pulled out of the base of the tower and carried and placed into (the car)," according to the police report.

The boys' friend picked them up, dropped them off at the Bellevue Hospital and left. The friend, who spoke with Kaufman, said he left after a while.

Later in the morning, Garcia's family contacted the boy and told him he needed to come to the police station and report the incident, which he did.

The boy who drove Garcia and his friend told the same story, Kaufman wrote in the report.

Inspecting the wind turbine scene

Kaufman went to the wind turbine to inspect it.

"Initial observation of the area around the scene revealed nothing remarkable," he wrote. "I then looked inside the door of the tower and noticed that there is a handle that allows a padlock to lock the door. No lock was on the door and inspection of the immediate area revealed no lock.

"School officials that were there all recall seeing a lock on the door the last time each had actually looked. They advised that in the past month, at least two other people had been at the turbine, the insurance risk assessor and a brake inspector, who inspects the turbine itself."

Kaufman discovered a "tiny blood spot. ... At the base of the ladder. No other evidence a fall had occurred was evident."

Interviewing Garcia's parents

Kaufman interviewed Garcia's mother, Irma Martinez and his stepfather, Carlos Martinez.

"They advised they had been contacted by the Bellevue Hospital, that their son had an accident," Kaufman wrote. Carlos further stated he went to the hospital and was told about the accident. Their son was transferred to a Toledo hospital.

"Martinez advised he did see and spoke to (his stepson's friend) at the E.R. Martinez said that he seemed to be either high or drunk and would not speak to him."

Kaufman asked Garcia's mother and stepfather if they ever had trouble with their son drinking or using drugs.

"They advised he had been coming home with alcohol on his breath and told his parents that a 21-year-old person was buying alcohol for him, but refused to tell them who it was," Kaufman wrote. He added Garcia's clothing that he wore at the time of the accident was in the house. His parents gave the officer permission to inspect it. Some of the items were blood-stained.

Surveillance video reveals little

Authorities discovered a dried blood sample at the base of the ladder, inside the tower. The item was collected and taken to the senior high school office, where Kaufman spoke with Bellevue City Schools Superintendent Kim Schubert. Kaufman asked to review the surveillance video for the turbine area of the school grounds from 11 p.m. Sunday.

"We observed that at (11:06 p.m.), a vehicle enters the student lot and proceeds directly to the base of the tower," Kaufman wrote. "Little can be seen as far as persons, but it seems to show general movement in the area. At (11:10), the vehicle exits the lot at what appears to be a high rate of speed. I called E.R. to see what time (Garcia's friend) and Garcia arrived there that night. I was told, according to their records, they arrived at (11:23).

Driver is interviewed

Kaufman interviewed the boy who drove Garcia and his friend that night.

"He advised on that night when he picked up (Garcia and his friend) the first time, they were 'really drunk,' but didn't appear injured.

About 20 to 30 minutes later, the driver received a call from Garcia's friend that they needed him to return and take Garcia to the hospital.

The driver arrived at the tower, and saw Garcia and his friend at the base of the tower.

"He said that Garcia was unconscious and lying on his back inside," the report reads, quoting the motorist. However, there was "very little blood" present. A small amount was coming from Garcia's mouth.

The three went to the hospital.

Emerging from residence with alcohol

The boy who climbed the turbine with Garcia was interviewed by police a second time.

The youth told police that he, their driver friend and another boy picked up Garcia at 6 p.m. Sunday from a North Sandusky Street address. They drove around for a while.

At about 9:15 to 9:30, Garcia and the boy who climbed with him were dropped off in the Center Street area. They walked down the street and "Garcia went into a residence." Garcia's friend refused to tell Kaufman who lived there. The friend said he knows Garcia "left with someone from the residence in a vehicle, was gone 10 to 15 minutes and then returned to the same residence, when Garcia left and the two met up again."

Garcia's friend told police at this point, Garcia had a bottle of liquor and the two went to the reservoir and "spent awhile drinking the bottle of liquor. He said they finished the whole bottle between them and threw it in the weeds."

Their friend then picked them up, dropped them off, Garcia saw the turbine and wished to climb it. The two did so and Garcia "was very near the second platform (about 60 to 80 feet high) when he fell."

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