As Friends Mourn Loss Of B.O.B. Fall Victim, A Fall Survivor Talks About Change For Added Safety

Posted at 10:38 PM, May 16, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-16 22:38:15-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Less than a week after a deadly fall down a four-story stairwell inside a Grand Rapids nightclub friends and family of the victim, 36-year-old Kevin O’Brien, came together to celebrate his life.

At the same time, others are still calling for changes at the B.O.B. including one man who fell three stories in the same stairwell and lived.

On Thursday night the tragic events at the B.O.B. that killed O’Brien took a back seat to family and friends who gathered at the Diamond Street Hall in Grand Rapids to remember O’Brien’s life.

One such friend was John Koval who said, “He (O’Brien) had a heart of gold and there are instances where I had a problem at my wife’s shop and he was there right away to fix the sink, drop everything just to help out.  And that is the type of person Kevin was.”

His life ended after falling four-stories down a back stairwell early Sunday morning.

O’Brien became the third person to die from a fall at the B.O.B. since 2009.

Ty VanderWall said he nearly lost his life on those same stairs.

“I tried to jump from one side to the other and missed,” said VanderWall.  “I hit the railings on my way down and landed on my back.”

VanderWall was in the hospital after suffering a gash on the head and severe back pain.

He doesn’t blame the B.O.B. for his decision to jump and the injuries that followed.

His fall happened nearly six months ago and in that time he’s watched two others die from falls similar to his own.

VanderWall said after O’Brien’s death he called the B.O.B. to see if anything could be done to improve the safety of the stairs.

“What I was told is they are going to completely enclose, block off that whole center column, so there is no chance at all that this sort of this thing will happen again,” he said.

VanderWall said his goal along with the friends of O’Brien is to prevent an additional group of friends from having to grieve over another life lost.

The Grand Rapids City Manager said he has been in contact with the architect of the B.O.B. about additional safety measures including raising the railing around the stairs.