Cincinnati marks 35th anniversary of Who concert tragedy

Thu Dec 4, 2014 12:04am EST
 
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By Steve Bittenbender

(Reuters) - The city of Cincinnati remembered one of the more tragic events in its history on Wednesday, a fatal stampede before a rock concert by The Who, and announced plans to erect a memorial for the 11 people who lost their lives 35 years ago.

Eleven lanterns were lit during a vigil after dark near the U.S. Bank Arena on the city's waterfront, one for each of the victims crushed to death on Dec. 3, 1979, outside the venue, then known as Riverfront Coliseum.

In addition to the 11 fans who died, 26 others were injured when thousands of concertgoers waiting to get into the coliseum rushed the gates after they heard the band going through its sound check and thought that the performance had started.

The British rockers went on with the concert, unaware of the tragedy until Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey were informed after the show.

"To help you bear that pain and to remember those who we lost 35 years ago tonight, I think it is proper and fitting to erect a memorial for them here on the Cincinnati riverfront," Mayor John Cranley said to friends and relatives of the victims attending the vigil on Wednesday night.

The stampede was blamed in part on the combination of unreserved general admission and festival seating, which prompted many fans to show up hours early to get as close to the stage as possible. Only 3,500 of the 18,348 tickets sold were reserved.

The city banned unreserved seating for 25 years after the tragedy. When the City Council reinstated festival seating in 2004, it did so with restrictions such as requiring additional emergency personnel and increasing the floor space-to-person ratio.

The Who announced its 50th anniversary tour in October. The band kicks off the tour in April and continues through November. No Cincinnati date is planned.

(Reporting by Steve Bittenbender in Louisville, Kentucky; Additional reporting by Mark Guarino; Editing by Steve Gorman and Michael Perry)