Experts say park where child died from electrified fence did not meet codes

New information about Fleming Park brings up new questions for city that remain unanswered


After leaving voicemails for Mayor Hardie Davis and Interim City Administrator Jarvis Sims on Thursday, we sent follow up emails to both on Friday. We did not receive a response by phone or by email. 

Also on Thursday, we asked the acting city spokesperson, Wanda Gothie, if the city plans to provide someone to answer our questions about the new information released by the lawyer for Melquan Robinson’s family. She responded, “Thank you for reaching out. This is an ongoing legal matter.”

We sent our list of preliminary questions regardless and asked the following: 

I understand. These are the questions we need answered for our coverage today, Thursday April 18. 

The electrical experts hired by Robinson’s family attorney assert that Fleming Park does not meet the Augusta Building Code nor the National Electrical Code. Does the city refute those claims? If yes, why? If the city does not refute those claims—  why did Fleming Park not meet the necessary codes after multiple reports of electrical issues dating back to the 90s?

Numerous times the city has pointed out that it has inspected 8 facilities with electrical similarities to Fleming Park. Do those facilities meet the building and electrical codes? If they do not meet code, does the city plan to cease activities at those parks until they do? What is the city doing to ensure all of those parks are up to code? If the other 8 facilities do meet code, why was Fleming Park an exception? 

Thank you in advance for responding to these questions. This story airs tonight starting at 5P. 

After we did not receive a response on Thursday, we sent a follow-up email on Friday and asked once again for answers to our questions. As of broadcast time, 5P on Friday, we had not received a response. 

Original Story Below

Electrical experts say the the city park where a 12-year old died did not meet the necessary codes. 

Melquan Robinson Jr. was killed on October 15th, 2018 at Fleming Park, when he touched a fence that was charged with electricity. Last week, his family filed a notice of an intent to sue the city of Augusta for $5 million worth of damages. 

We now have new information about what lead to the surge of electricity that killed Melquan Jr.

On Thursday, the lawyer representing the family had electrical experts at Fleming park to take another look at the wiring. Thursdays inspection was a follow up. Their goal was to learn everything they can about what went so wrong to take Melquan’s life.

“It there’s one thing that can come about from the death of Melquan Robinson is that we save other kids lives,” said Rob Register of Beasley Allen Law Firm who is representing the family of Melquan Robinson Jr. 

In an earlier investigation, the electrical experts hired by the family’s lawyer found Fleming Park did not meet the National Electric Code nor the Augusta Building Code. 

“There is no equipment grounding conductor, which is an elementary part of any electric wiring system,” Register says. 

Register points out that an equipment grounding condutor is a mechanism that is required by the National Electric Code and by extension is also required of the Augusta Building Code. 

“The sad part is, if the system had an equipment grounding conductor, when the event occurred… the power would have been shut off and Melquan would not have been electrocuted,” Register explained. 

The Beasley Allen Law Firm also gave NewsChannel 6 an email from the athletic manager to the Deputy Director for Augusta Parks and Recreation that was dated May 23rd, 2014. 

The manager writes, “last night at Fleming Complex, a mother said that her child got shocked by a light pole” and then asks “would it be possible to have an electrician to check into this?” 

The response came about 6 hours later. “Glenn told me the fence needed to be grounded. It’s been taken care of.” 

The incident described above was more than 4 years before Melquan’s death and 23 years after a similar event in 1991 that lead family to sue. 

“The city has to commit to checking every field in this city to make sure that there is a proper equipment grounding conductor in every field,” states Register. 

On April 12, Register sent the city a legal document that shows the family intends to cue. The document contained their finding that Fleming Park did not meet the necessary codes and the list of previous similar events. 

Register says the city has not responded, but he expects to have a dialog with them to determine if a lawsuit needs to be filed. 

After NewsChannel 6 received the information from the attorney representing Melquan Robinson Jr.’s family, we attempted to contact multiple people within the city of Augusta. 

NewsChannel 6 reporter Ashley Osborne left voicemails for both the Mayor and the Interim City Administrator. She has not received a call back from either.  

Geoff Alls, one of the city’s lawyers, was at Fleming Park during Thursday’s inspection. Alls told NewsChannel 6’s Ashley Osborne the inpsection was a routine step in the legal process. He said the city’s legal department does not have an official statement and instructed us to contact Spokesperson Jim Beasley. Beasley does not work for the City of Augusta and has not worked there in more than a month. 

NewsChannel 6 sent a list of questions to Wanda Gothie, the person tasked with fielding media requests since Beasley Left. Our initial request was met with “Thanks for reaching out. This is an ongoing legal matter.” We sent back a list of questions and did not receive a response. You can read the full exchange below. 

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