BOSTON — Shortly after the Boston Bruins defeated the Washington Capitals on Thursday, a trio of college friends from Maine stopped near the end of the TD Garden ice rink to take a photo.
Seconds later, two of them were knocked to the ground and were bleeding from their heads.
“We were just taking a photo and the netting — the protective netting to stop pucks from hitting fans — came crashing down on my friends,” University of Maine student Caitlynn Brown, 20, of Portland said Monday by phone.
Sabina Grasso, 21, of Cumberland and Anna McDonough, 20, of Scarborough were both struck by the falling metal bar which holds the netting, and were bleeding profusely.
Brown, a former nursing student, used her jacket to hold back the bleeding on Grasso, who had just celebrated her 21st birthday. TD Garden emergency medical technicians arrived quickly to tend to the women, who were taken to Massachusetts General Hospital and are now back home in Maine recovering from their injuries.
“They have serious concussions,” Brown said of Grasso and McDonough.
“Sabina was knocked right out cold,” said McDonough’s father, Brian McDonough, a lieutenant with the Maine State Police. “We’re very grateful Caitlynn Brown was able to administer first aid and one of the best hospitals in the world is right down the street. These were pretty significant injuries.”
He said and it’s too early to say how serious the women’s injuries are at this point. Both are suffering headaches, and McDonough’s daughter has some memory loss.
“She doesn’t remember calling me at about 11 o’clock. She asked how I learned about what happened and I said, ‘You called me.’ She said, ‘I didn’t call you.’”
McDonough said he knew his daughter, who graduated from Cheverus High School with Grasso and is attending Emmanuel College in Boston, was having problems after that initial 11 p.m. call. McDonough thanked his twin brother, Kevin McDonough, who lives closer to Boston, for rushing to provide support, and the Massachusetts State Police, who also checked on his daughter’s welfare.
The protective netting has been required by the National Hockey League since 2002, after a 13-year-old girl was hit and killed by a puck. The netting is raised at the ends of the ice rink to catch stray pucks that get past the plexiglass boards.
Even though the Boston Inspectional Services Department only inspects buildings, not equipment, the agency sent over an inspector to TD Garden on Monday, according to department spokeswoman Lisa Timberlake. The inspector was not allowed to look at the netting equipment, she said shortly after he returned to the department office Monday afternoon.
“He could not get too close,” Timberlake said.
“He actually spoke to the supervisor of the administrative offices at the TD Garden, and they are completing their own investigation, and it’s still under investigation,” she said.
Tricia McCorkle, spokeswoman for TD Garden, released the following statement on the incident:
“We are truly sorry that two fans suffered serious injuries caused by the safety net that fell,” she said. “The safety of our fans is our top priority. We have assembled a team of experts, including an engineering firm and the original net installers, that are analyzing the cause of the mechanical failure that led to the net falling.
“We are replacing all damaged parts of the safety net as well as every part of the system that was placed under stress,” McCorkle said. “Again, we are truly sorry this incident occurred and hope the two fans have a full and speedy recovery.”
Once the investigation is complete — it is expected to be done before Thursday’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes — TD Garden officials are supposed to provide the Inspectional Services with a copy of “their findings and any steps taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” Timberlake said.
McDonough said he’s interested in what the investigation shows, especially since he’s been unable to get his questions answered.
Those who attend ice hockey games understand there is a chance of injury from flying pucks, even with the netting, but “you would never expect things would fall down around you,” McDonough said. “We need to prevent it from happening in the future.”
Brown said even though it has been four days, she is still shaken by memories of the incident that injured her two friends right in front of her.
“There was no warning,” Brown said. “It’s definitely traumatizing.”