``The section of railings showed no apparent rust or corrosion or other obvious flaws,'' the report said. It added: ``It should be noted, similar incidents have occurred in other stadiums when crowds have congregated and caused excessive lateral force at the handrails.''
The 16-foot length of aluminum railing that gave way was capable of withstanding no more than 800 pounds, according to the city's Licenses & Inspections Department. The total weight of the fans leaning against the barrier was about 2,000 pounds.
HNTB said it did not do an ``exhaustive review,'' but checked other rails in the temporary stands and in the 500 level. The consultant found them to be ``consistent'' with industry standards.
For Mayor Rendell, the report was good news for a city-owned stadium that has endured two national embarrassments in the last week. On Dec. 3, the Eagles play clock broke down before a nationally televised game against the Rams. And on Saturday, fans toppled 15 feet when the railing collapsed after Army scored a touchdown in its annual showdown with Navy.
The mayor said the two episodes alone should not lead anyone to conclude that the Vet is unsafe or poorly maintained. The solution, Rendell said, is for fans to be cautious and avoid using the railing for anything except maintaining balance.
``The incident was caused by too much crowding and pushing on a structure that is not meant to be weight-bearing,'' Rendell said.
The Rendell administration released a memo from Stadium Director Greg Grillone showing that the day before the Army-Navy game, two city mechanics inspected the railing that collapsed and found nothing that needed to be repaired.
But the city released no inspection records that would indicate the overall condition of the stadium. One maintenance worker's time sheet was made public yesterday. The one-page, handwritten paper showed only the days he had gone to work over the last two months.
To date, the mayor has framed the incidents at the Vet in narrow terms: Was the railing that gave way structurally sound? Could the city afford to repair the broken clock?
Rendell says the answer to both questions is yes. And the evidence suggests he is right.
But others have posed questions that have been obscured in the debate.
Could the ushers have shooed fans away from the railing? Rendell said yesterday that ``I don't think any usher could have reacted quickly enough to break up that amount of students from pushing at the railing.''
Is the malfunctioning clock symptomatic of the city's inability to maintain the Vet at the standard that pro teams expect? Some athletes have complained that conditions at the Vet are worse than those they see at other stadiums.
Given the way fans mug for the TV cameras, should stadium designers consider replacing such railings with sturdier supports? Railings similar to the one that collapsed Saturday are scattered throughout the Vet and other stadiums across the country.
And who inspects the Vet? Rendell himself wasn't sure of the answer to that question earlier this week.
As it turns out, the city's Licenses & Inspections Department examines the 27-year-old stadium for fire code violations. L&I Commissioner Fran Egan promised to release those records today.
The rest is done by stadium maintenance workers, all city employees, as part of their daily jobs.
That's not enough, said City Controller Jonathan Saidel.
``In any city-owned property open to the public, people need to absolutely believe they're in a safe environment,'' Saidel said yesterday. ``It's in the best interests of the city to have an independent third party come in and analyze structural defects and do an inspection of Veterans Stadium. I'm surprised that's not being done.''
City Councilman James Kenney said he might sponsor a resolution after the Eagles season ends seeking to find out what the stadium does to protect fans.
Asked for copies of general stadium inspection reports, the city yesterday produced the time sheet of a city welder assigned to the Vet.
``What the information suggests is that there is at least one person, a welder, who in the course of his regular duties examines the railings, looks to repair them and when they need to be replaced, sees to it they are replaced,'' said Deputy Mayor Kevin Feeley.
Rendell said that the broken railing had been replaced and that the stadium was ready for the Eagles game Sunday.