Initial reports following the incident in which 17-year-old Matt James fell from a Panama City balcony to his death indicate that alcohol was involved and that the young man was “belligerent” and arguing with other hotel guests from the room’s balcony.
Police are also trying to determine how the 17-year-old football star acquired alcohol, saying that it “magically appeared” and that “nobody wants to tell them” how the alcohol was obtained. Panama City Beach Police Maj. David Humphreys described the events leading up to James’ death:
The Notre Dame recruit went out onto the balcony, where a friend and vacationers on the balcony next door tried to calm him, Humphreys said.
James yelled at his neighbors and told them to stay out of it, witnesses told police.
“He had leaned over the balcony, he was shaking his finger at these people telling them to mind their own business,” Humphreys said. “At some point, during that conversation, as he was leaning over the balcony rail, unfortunately, he tumbled over the top and fell from there to his death.”
Another spring break vacationer died in a similar fall a week prior, and Panama City Beach Mayor Gail Oberst spoke to the News Herald about the all too common occurrence of drunken balcony falls:
“It happens all over the country, and it’s really a sad thing when it does happen,” Oberst said of the fall. “Balcony falls are associated with Spring Break, I think, but they happen every year, all year, everywhere.”
She also talked about underage drinking and vacationers.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of peer pressure, and then you get them away from home and they tend to drink too much and it almost always results, with a handful of people, in a tragedy for them,” she said.
James’ body is expected to be released to his parents Monday so funeral arrangements can be made.