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Reporter Struck, Killed by Hammer at Track Meet

Times Staff Writer

A reporter was struck in the head and killed by a hammer throw Friday at the NCAA Division II track and field championships at Cal State Los Angeles.

Phil Klusman, 43, who covered college sports for the Bakersfield Californian, was walking on the sideline about 150 feet from the hammer circle when he was hit by the wild practice throw.

Witnesses said Klusman did not see the hammer coming toward him, but he ducked and shielded his head with a clipboard at the last second when a Bakersfield coach yelled, “Heads up,” and tried to shove him out of the way.

The 16-pound hammer grazed the edge of the clipboard before hitting Klusman.

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Medical personnel administered first-aid immediately, and Klusman was taken to the Los Angeles County trauma center at USC, where he died a half-hour later of massive head injuries.

Sgt. Prince Green of the Cal State Los Angeles Police Dept. said Friday night: “At this time, it appears to be an accidental death.”

Neither Green nor the Los Angeles County coroner’s office would release the name of the athlete who threw the errant hammer. The winning distance in the event was 203 feet 2 inches.

"(Klusman) was talking to a couple of the Cal State Bakersfield coaches (Charlie Craig and Bob Koons),” Larry Press, a columnist for the Californian who hired Klusman 21 years ago, told the Associated Press. “He was out of bounds, not where you expect the hammer to land.

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“You don’t know when that thing’s going to fly out of there and where. He apparently had his back to it. It hit him in the head. He was standing outside of the red flag which designates the legal sector.

“Some people yelled at him, and he tried to duck, but it still got him.”

Klusman, of Woodland, Calif., is a bachelor. His parents live in Woodland and he has a sister in St. Louis.

Funeral arrangements were pending.


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