Much still unknown about fatal James Brown Arena gas leak

James Brown Arena
James Brown Arena(WRDW)
Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 8:14 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2022 at 6:14 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A maintenance worker at the James Brown Arena died after discovering a gas leak Friday night.

People at the Charlie Wilson & Friends concert were evacuated. Officials say freon leaked, prompting the evacuations.

The arena’s management issued a statement Friday night: “It is with deep sadness that we report the death of one of our employees due to an accident occurring at James Brown Arena just before tonight’s Charlie Wilson & Friends show.”

Richmond County Coroner Mark Bowen identified the victim as 66-year-old Rex Broadwater of Hephzibah.

At 7:12 p.m. dispatchers received a call from other maintenance workers in reference to an unresponsive male “who may have inhaled fumes from an AC unit that he was working on,” according to the incident report.

There are still a lot of questions surrounding how this may have happened and why this happened.

According to Bowen, he was pronounced dead at 8:15 p.m., and an autopsy will be scheduled.

We were told by several local HVAC companies that this couldn’t have been a small leak. It had to be something large. We’re told when Freon leaks, it’s hard to see or notice, so you inhale it, and it replaces oxygen and sits in your lungs because it’s heavy.

We reached out to Brad Usry and the Coliseum Authority for comment. They’re referring all questions to the general manager of the James Brown Arena. We called the general manager, who said they would interview about this incident, then later declined to comment because there is an active investigation.

We also reached out to the Environmental Protection Agency to see if they have any part in this after a leak, but we have not heard back yet.

We reached out to Richmond County’s Emergency Management to see if a hazmat team was involved, but they say they didn’t respond. Local authorities checked the air and it was considered safe. The city says they don’t have records of any service or maintenance done to those systems.

Nate Bethel was among the people turned back at the area.

“We got there and the workers were outside. They basically told us they evacuated everybody immediately,” Bethel said. “They didn’t know what was going on, so we stayed in the car for a little while. Once we got out there, like 30 minutes later, they told us it was a gas leak and then they told us somebody had passed away.”