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Harts' lawyer: Rigging was a "makeshift contraption"

By CHERYL WITTENAUERL -- Associated Press

 KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The device that dropped professional wrestler Owen Hart to his death was a "makeshift contraption" that was never designed to hold a 230-pound man, according to a lawyer for his family.

Hart's widow and her children filed a wrongful death lawsuit Tuesday against the World Wrestling Federation and others they believe are responsible for Hart's death last month in an aerial stunt that went wrong at Kemper Arena.

"Our legal and factual allegation is that Owen Hart died because this makeshift contraption was totally inadequate for this intended purpose," said attorney Gary Robb.

Hart's widow, Martha Hart, said she hoped the lawsuit would force the WWF to take precautions so that no other wrestler would be subjected to unsafe conditions.

"Owen has died, and there is nothing I can do to bring him back," Mrs. Hart said. "My wish is that his death not be in vain, that his death can be a vehicle for vastly improving the safety of the industry."

Hart, 34, was killed May 23 when he fell from a cable as he was being lowered into the ring at a WWF spectacle. He fell 78 feet when the quick release on his harness opened early.

The lawsuit contends the device he wore was grossly inadequate and that the WWF failed to provide a safety net and harness and backup cables.

WWF spokesman Jim Byrne said his company had not yet been served with the lawsuit and couldn't comment on its allegations.

Mrs. Hart said she was "outraged and repulsed" that the WWF continued the show after her husband's dead body was removed from the ring before 17,000 spectators.

Alan Schmelzle, general manager for Kemper Arena, which was also named as a defendant in the suit, said the decision to continue meant no disrespect for Hart. He said event organizers "honestly didn't know if he was dead at that point."

Police are investigating the death to see whether criminal charges should be filed.

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