Javelin Toss Goes Horribly Wrong, Referee Dies After Being Speared

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Man throwing javelin at track and field competition, blurred motion

A track and field official has died after being accidentally impaled by a 15-year old javelin competitor at a sporting event in Germany.

Dieter Strack was going about his duties Sunday night as an official for the annual Wilhelm Unger Games, a youth sporting event in Dusseldorf, Germany. Then, tragedy struck — from above. The 74-year-old referee had stepped on to the playing field to measure the distance of a javelin toss, when an unwitting contestant threw a javelin, striking Strack in the cheek. The 1.5-pound spear then traveled down to his neck and hit a crucial artery as stunned spectators looked on.

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“He ran to the sector while the throw was still in the air,” Jochen Grundman, one of the organizers of the 66th Wilhelm Unger Games, told ABC News. “He probably thought he would calculate the airpath correctly before the javelin touched the ground.”

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But it never did land on the ground. When it struck him, Strack, according to ABC News, “shouted, grabbed the javelin, taking it out of his body, and dropped to the ground as officials, a doctor and athletes rushed to him.” He was sped to the hospital, but on Monday succumbed to his injuries that included a ruptured carotid artery. The competition was halted after the accident, which was witnessed by over 800 people who were in the stands. At least seven were treated for shock, according to Sky News. The 15-year old javelin thrower is getting psychological counseling for his part in the tragic event, the Associated Press reports.

“Although there is a rule not to go to the sector before the throw lands, most experienced judges rush to it while the throw is still in the air,” Grundman told ABC. “They even do that at the Olympic Games.”

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