Pro Wrestling Under Fire After Child's Death

ByABC News
July 25, 2001, 2:32 PM

July 25 -- Professional wrestling is being blamed again for the death of another child whose mother says he was imitating moves he saw on TV.

Last week, 9-year-old, 65-pound Derek Garland died from injuries suffered after rough-housing with his 16-year-old, 225-pound friend Jason Crabb.

Police are still investigating the exact cause of the death and have not decided whether to press charges against Crabb. However, an autopsy showed that Derek suffered injuries to his neck and head.

Julie Garland, Derek's mother, said she didn't want her son to watch wrestling and feared he would hurt himself imitating wrestling moves.

"I never liked wrestling to begin with," Garland said. "I didn't like Derek watching it, but he liked to watch, and I did not like it. I don't believe it's possible for them to throw each other around like that and nobody get hurt, and I think we've all learned that the hard way."

Crabb is the son of Garland's fiancée. Derek's parents are separated. On July 17, Derek's mother left the two boys alone in their home while she went to the store. According to North Carolina police, Crabb said he and Derek began grappling and Derek jumped off a bed onto his much larger opponent's back. Crabb, police said, allegedly flipped Derek over his back and the boy landed on his neck and back.

Derek started having trouble breathing, and Crabb called 911. Derek later died from his injuries at Wilkes Regional Medical Center.

While investigators are still mulling whether to press charges against the teenager, Wilkes County Sheriff Dane Mastin said parents need to warn their children not to mimic what they see on wrestling programs.

"We need to caution folks about kids watching this and attempting to mimic these very specialized and well-trained athletes in making these moves, that they shouldn't be trying that stuff," Mastin said.

Wrestling: Dont Rush to Judge Us

Gary Davis, spokesman for World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc said pro wrestling should not be blamed for Derek's death as it was in the Lionel Tate case. Noting that The World Wrestling Federation had not been mentioned by name in Derek Garland's death, Davis claimed media coverage of the Tate case fueled a "rush to judgment" that he feared would be repeated.