Reporting Nancy Harty
UPDATED 11/29/10 5:26 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Police believe the death of a Bears fan at Soldier Field during the game Sunday was a tragic accident.
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Stuart Haverty, 23, of far northwest suburban Woodstock, fell 35 feet to his death from a balcony on the west side of the stadium.
Haverty had gotten up to go to the bathroom during halftime. Friends said he may have hopped over a railing to enjoy a cigarette behind one of Soldier Field’s famous columns before he fell, friends said.
He was a skilled climber who enjoyed scaling up the side of buildings and trees.
Haverty fell about 4:55 p.m. from a balcony between two columns on the west side of the stadium, between gates 19 and 21, approximately level with the 50 yard line, police said.
The flat roof Haverty landed on is about 35 feet below the balcony.
He would have had to have jumped or fallen over a three-foot-high railing on the balcony, then fallen off a ledge that appeared to be at least two feet wide before plunging down.
Rumors quickly spread at the stadium that the man had run and jumped off the balcony, but police at the scene said they believed the death was an accident.
A relative said Haverty was ‘‘a happy kid’’ who would not deliberately have hurt himself.
The room Haverty landed on is about 15 feet high, and the fire department needed a ladder with a basket to get the man down, Fire Media Affairs spokesman Joe Roccasalva said.
Haverty was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
“Unfortunately, there was an incident here on the west side of the stadium from the colonnade level,” said Luca Serra, a spokesman for Soldier Field.
Haverty graduated from Woodstock High School in 2006. He was attending McHenry County College and working at a tool manufacturing business, his friend Emily Heidenreich said.
A big Bears fan, he was ‘‘down to earth, quiet, and fun to go out for a few drinks with,’’ Heidenreich said. ‘‘You could always go to him with a problem,’’ she added.
Haverty’s aunt Marianne Haverty said he was ‘‘a sweet, sweet boy,’’ and ‘‘an average 23-year-old.’’
‘‘I’m just in shock,’’ she added.
Haverty had stacked two sofas on top of each other at his home so that friends could watch games stadium-style, Heidenreich said. He was twice caught by police scaling the outside of a building in Harvard, she added.
On Sunday, the Bears beat the Philadelphia Eagles 31-26.
Contributing: Chicago Sun-Times, via the Sun-Times Media Wire