Local woman remembers being electrocuted at Bernie Ward Center in 1991

Local woman remembers being electrocuted at Bernie Ward Center in 1991

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Months after 12-year old Melquan Robin was electrocuted at a Richmond County park, another woman says something similar happened to her years ago.

Melquan Robinson Jr. climbed a fence to get a football at the Bernie Ward Community Center and was electrocuted on the way back over the fence. We’re told a live wire was somehow touching the fence.

Now, 37-year-old Crystal Underwood says she remembers something from almost 30 years ago that happened to her. Underwood says her mom filed this lawsuit against the city of Augusta in 1993. She also sued the businesses that installed and maintained the electrical system. Two years earlier, Underwood says she got shocked when she grabbed the fence and a light post at the same time. “I never dreamed I would ever hear 5 years down the road, 20 years down the road that a child lost his life by the same thing that happened to me.”

Underwood’s lawyer says the city and county had reckless disregard for the safety of others. They requested $200,000 dollars in damages. The lawsuit says Crystal experienced electrical shock, burns, and permanent partial hearing loss.

"I just couldn’t believe it. That this was the same park and that a child lost his life. Same situation. He did nothing different but touch a fence and that’s the same thing that I did; touched a fence and woke up in intensive care unit.”

According to court documents, the county claims Crystal was hurt when ground-wires, running underground. detached from the ground rods around the light posts.

Pastor Angela Harden says, “If it would have been addressed properly and not hidden, just maybe Melquan would not have died in the same park. Evidently that park has some issues and it must be a dark secret that is coming to the light."

This all happened before the city and county consolidated. The city said in response to the lawsuit that Crystal was not electrocuted, the city didn’t own or operate the Bernie Ward Community Center, and they’re not liable. According to Underwood, her attorney dropped the case before a ruling from a judge.

Community Activists are asking 100 people to stand before Richmond County Commissioners and rally at next week’s meeting.

On Friday, the City of Augusta responded to our request for a statement about this incident.

The tragic incident at Fleming Athletic Complex, which resulted in the loss of a child, is of great concern to us. Likewise, we recognize that members of our community are greatly concerned. Since October, we have taken action to make our parks safer places for children and adults. We have contracted experts to review conditions of electrical systems at eight athletic facilities with similarities to Fleming. We have made repairs expeditiously. I believe appropriately, this work has taken priority over other work orders. As you might realize, our current leadership team was not in place in 1991. We are gathering information about the incident, but we are not in a position to comment.
Administrator Janice Allen Jackson

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