ST. LOUIS • Even with their homeland in war, the Iraqi people living in St. Louis weren't prepared to handle this kind of grief.
Karrar Abudarb, a 19-year-old son of refugees, was killed Monday night playing soccer in a park with 11 of his friends. The bizarre accident that ended his life occurred in the city's Wilmore Park, at Hampton and Jamieson avenues, near his home.
About 7:45 p.m., Abudarb grabbed the metal crossbar of a soccer goal and did some pull-ups, according to friends who saw him do it. The goal tipped over and the bar crushed his skull.
Friends, stunned, turned his body over. Abudarb took two more breaths and was still, said his friend Ameir Mahdi, 19. City paramedics declared him dead at the scene.
The news spread first among the city's Iraqis, who were in disbelief.
Death is routine in Iraq. Not so here.
"We didn't believe it and we still don't believe he's gone, " said Hadir Al-Mashkour, 20.
On Monday night at his family's home near Chippewa Street and Kingshighway, his mother, Nawal, refused to accept it, insisting her son had just gone to the store, a friend said.
Many questions remained Tuesday. According to police, Abudarb and his friends were using a portable metal goal they had placed on the west side of the park's soccer fields.
Early Tuesday, the goal was removed by workers with the city's Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry.
Friends who were there when Abudarb died disputed any suggestion that they had brought the goal. They said it was already on the field, where they often meet to play because it is lighted at night.
The friends had been practicing because they planned to compete in a soccer tournament this week, said Ammar Abudarb, 19, a cousin.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said it knows of 23 deaths and 38 serious injuries since 1979 from soccer goals tipping over and crushing children who climb on them or hang from the crossbar. Working with the soccer goal industry, it developed standards for anchoring the goals.
The park is equipped with goalposts secured in the ground, so it is unclear why players were using a portable goal.
Abudarb, a 2006 graduate of Soldan High School, was a star defender in his senior year on a team that finished 10-1-1 and won the league championship. The team was featured in a Post-Dispatch story because more than a quarter of the team's players - including Madhi, Abudarb and his younger brother Alaa Abudarb, now 18 - played while observing Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.
The Abudarbs are relative newcomers to St. Louis. Adel Abudarb came to the United States as a war refugee in the early 1990s and obtained permanent residency status for the rest of his family, who joined him in the late 1990s, friends said.
Friends interviewed on Tuesday said Karrar Abudarb is one of seven children. He was a student at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park and worked as a clerk at a Phillips 66 station in University City.
They said he wanted to be a pharmacist.
Just 20 hours after his death, Abudarb was buried in the Islamic section of Lakewood Park Cemetery on Mackenzie Road in Affton.
Only the men accompanied the body to the grave site. About 50 men and boys, including his father and brother, took turns shoveling the dirt on the casket, some praying, nearly all of them wailing. About two dozen women and girls watched from afar, their cries coming in waves.
Adel Abudarb stood at the grave, embracing guests and weeping.
Susan Weich and Paul Koehler of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.