Videos of swimmers in renovated Monroe Park fountain sparks safety concerns

Posted at 10:46 PM, Sep 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-27 23:33:02-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Videos taken of individuals swimming and climbing the newly renovated fountain in Richmond's Monroe Park is sparking safety concerns.

Mayor Levar Stoney and city leaders officially opened up the city's prominent park situated in the middle of VCU's campus with a ribbon cutting Thursday afternoon. The renovations were unveiled to the public after a long-awaited and delayed construction project that closed the park in November 2016.

A major part of those renovations included a complete restoration of the 1906 Victorian style fountain that some considered the city's most famous fountain.

However, several videos captured on Snapchat and posted on Twitter and Instagram showed unidentified individuals splashing in the fountain's basin Wednesday night.

One video depicted a man in shorts swimming laps and eventually climbing the fountain. The video cuts off before the climber reached the top.

PHOTO: @carystreetgym

"People are walking by staring at this happening and no one’s doing anything," described Bennett Kroanteng, a VCU freshman who watched the videos. "Everyone’s talking about it. If you ask anyone on campus if they’ve seen the video of someone jumping in the fountain they’ll say, 'yeah.'"

The videos, one of which was posted on The Black Sheep at VCU Twitter account, was shared and favorited hundreds of times.

The dangers of climbing such a tall water structure has some recalling the time when a teenager was killed after scaling the same fountain more than 40 years ago.

Two years ago, CBS 6's Mark Holmberg interviewed witnesses who watched as 17-year-old Wilmer Curtis Donivan Jr., an apprentice bricklayer, was crushed by the fountain.

"The fountain cracks. I could see one guy up there coming down. And people yelling," Doug Riddell recalled.

In 2018, VCU Police Assistant Chief Christopher Preuss stated they'll be on the watch for any new offenders. It's not only illegal to swim in the fountain, but visiting the park from sunset to sunrise is prohibited, according to the Monroe Park Conservancy President Alice Massie.

"You’re not supposed to [swim in it.] and if we see that we’re going to get them out and advise them on it," Preuss said."They’re not supposed to be swimming in the park."

The Monroe Park renovations include upgrades to safety and security throughout the space.

"Safety and security in the park will be shared by the Richmond and VCU Police Departments. A police substation, to be used by both RPD and VCUPD, has been installed in the Checkers House in the park. Security cameras have also been installed throughout the park," according to a press release.

CBS 6 learned at least some groups still plan to swim in the fountain in the upcoming days.

"Without a doubt you’ll catch someone doing it again," Kroanteng said. "Because those videos are circulating everywhere and everyone wants to be in those videos getting the hundreds of retweets."

The owner of The Black Sheep at VCU Twitter account stated they do not "condone this behavior as we stated in the tweet."

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