UPDATED at 3:30 p.m. with jury's award.
ST. LOUIS • A St. Louis jury awarded $40,000 Thursday to the parents a young man who was crushed by a soccer goal in Wilmore Park.
Karrar Abudarb, a 19-year-old son of Iraqi refugees, had been playing a pick-up game of soccer with 11 of his friends when the fatal accident happened the night of Nov. 19, 2007. According to witnesses, Abudarb hung from the metal crossbar of a portable goal and did some pull-ups, causing it to tip over and crush his skull. City paramedics declared him dead at the scene.
The makeshift soccer field he and the others used was on city property, but the goal had been reportedly brought in by one of the immigrant groups that frequently played there. Abudarb's friends said it was already there when they played that night. Nobody claimed it afterward.
Abudarb's parents, Adel Aburdarb and Nawal Rassooli, filed a wrongful death suit against the city in April 2009. Their attorney, Mark Helfers, alleged at trial this week that officials with the city's Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry knew for over a year that untethered goals were being used on the field and were a danger, but did nothing to train lower level staff to recognize the risk. He also said one parks official, who had been part of a meeting discussing the dangers, saw this particular goal days before the accident and did nothing to remove it.
"This is not the way that you run a park system in a city like this," he told jurors in closing arguments Wednesday. "This was a halfhearted effort."
The makeshift goals that Abudarb and his friends used were next to regulation sized fields and anchored goals that the city provided. But, according to court testimony, the group used the portable goals because they had a small number of players and needed a smaller field.
City Counselor Thomas McDonnell argued the city could not be held responsible for equipment that other people bring into its parks, and said Abudarb knew the goal was not anchored — he helped move it prior to the game — and he realized the risk but swung from it anyway.
"The hard fact is he made a mistake. He made a tragic mistake and it unfortunately cost him his life," McDonnell said.
Abudarb was the first born of seven siblings. He lived with his family near Chippewa Street and Kingshighway, not far from the field where he died. Abudarb was a star defender on his soccer team at Soldan High School, from which he graduated in 2006. At the time of his death, he was a student at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. He had plans of becoming a pharmacist, and worked as a clerk at a Phillips 66 station in University City.
Helfers noted that in Iraqi culture, a lot of expectations are placed on the first-born male and Abudarb filled that role.
"Karrar would get things done. He brought people together in a good way, always with a smile on his face," he told jurors, in asking them to award $1.5 million to the couple for a variety of emotional and financial losses they claim to have experienced as a result of Abudarb's death.
Jurors awarded $160,000 for the loss, but said that Abudarb was 75 percent responsible for his own death, reducing the award by that amount. Jurors said that the city was 25 percent at fault.
Reporter Robert Patrick contributed to this article.