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Death at a Concert

Some of the Worst Concert Tragedies of all Time


Concerts and live events are meant to be a fun night out, a time for hanging out with friends and enjoying whatever music you happen to be into. While most concerts go off without a hitch, and the worst thing that happens are few moshpit injuries and a few outfits ruined by having beer spilled on them, it's a sad fact that every so often a show can go horribly wrong. From fire to adverse weather conditions to outright murder, tragedies can and do happen occasionally when that many people are gathered in one place.

Here are some of the worst concert tragedies of all time.

1. Callejeros - República Cromañón, Buenos Aires, Argentina - December 13, 2004

Around 3,000 people were in attendance for a show by the Buenos Aires rock band Callejeros, when a fire erupted, caused by someone in the crowd setting off a flare that ignited the ceiling. Emergency exits had been chained shut by the show's organizers and 194 people were killed and 714 were injured. Among the dead were relatives of the band members, the band manager's wife and the lead singer's girlfriend.

Although the band had asked the crowd to not light fireworks, they were tried and found guilty of murder, and sentenced to 11 years in prison each. Six police officers and government employees nd the club owner were also found guilty of murder.

2. Great White - The Station Nightclub,West Warwick, RI - February 20, 2003

Robert Mora/Getty Images

At a Great White show in a club in Rhode Island, while the band opened with "Desert Moon," a fire erupted when pyrotechnics ignited the soundproof insulation at back of the stage, which spread to the ceiling (the fire was captured on video).

In the ensuing chaos, fans rushed toward the main entrance. Of the 462 concertgoers, 100 were killed (including Great White guitarist Ty Longley, and WHJY DJ Mike "The Doctor" Gonsalves, the concert's MC). In addition, 230 were injured from smoke inhalation, burns or being trampled in crowd.

As a result, Great White tour manage Daniel Biechele was sentenced to 10 years for involuntary manslaughter (he was paroled in 2008). The nightclub owners also received criminal sentences.

3. German Love Parade - Duisburg, Germany - July 24, 2010

Getty Images
A popular German dance and techno festival, the 2010 German Love Parade was marred by tragedy when 21 people were killed and over 500 were injured due to crushing and trampling. Although the venue was capable of handling more than 250,000 people, over one million attendess were anticipated. Entrance to the space, a former freight station, was through a series of underpasses and tunnels. Despite the venue being at capacity and the tunnels closed, people continued to press into the tunnel, resulting in deaths. It has since been announced that, as a direct result of this incident, future Love Parade events have been canceled, and the festival is no more.

4. Damageplan - Alrosa Villa, Columbus, OH - December 8, 2004

Scott Gries/Getty Images

Not all of the worst concert tragedies happen in the crowd - sometimes they take place on stage. This was the case at a Damageplan show in Ohio.

A supergroup founded by brothers Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul Abbott in the wake of the breakup of Pantera, the band was performing when Nathan Gale climbed on stage and shot Darrell in the head multiple times. Also killed were the band's Head of Security, Jeffery Thompson as he scuffled with Gale, a fan who attempted to give CPR to Thompson and Darrell, and roadie Erin Halk, who also tried to stop Gale. Gale was shot and killed by police.

Investigation revealed no motive, although some claimed that Gale blamed the brothers for Pantera's breakup and believed they had stolen his lyrics.

5. The Who - Riverfront Coliseum, Cincinnati, OH - December 3, 1979


While the Who was touring the in 1979, 11 concertgoers were killed and 26 were injured when a crowd rushed the stage at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio. The deaths have been ascribed to two reasons. One was that the venue had festival seating (general admission), and attendees were rushing for the best spots. In addition, many waiting outside mistook the band's sound check for the beginning of the concert, forcing their way inside when most of the entrances were not yet open.

The band was not informed of the deaths until after show, as local authorities feared the consequences if the show were canceled. As a result of this incident, festival seating was band in Cincinnati for 25 years.

6. Pearl Jam - Roskilde, Denmark - June 30, 2000

Pearl Jam
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

During a Pearl Jam concert at Denmark's Roskilde Festival, nine people were crushed to death as the crowd rushed the stage. Investigations have concluded that the events were an accident. Several people fell and couldn't get up, and in addition, crowdsurfers were falling into the open area.

Pearl Jam stopped the show and asked people to back up, but it was too late. As a result, many European venues have banned crowdsurfing. The Pearl Jam song "Love Boat Captain" refers to the events with the line "Lost nine friends we'll never know... two years ago today."

7. Altamont Speedway Free Festival - December 6, 1969


Perhaps the most infamous incident to make this list was the evnts that took place at the Altamont Free Festival in Northern California in 1969. Organized by The Rolling Stones, the free concert also featured Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Approximately 300,000 people attended the concert,  and a homicide occurred when Alan Passaro, a member of the Hells Angels (who had been hired for security) stabbed 18-year-old Meredith Hunter after Hunter pulled a gun. In addition, the festival had three accidental deaths - two from a hit-and-run car accident and one by drowning in an irrigation canal.

Hunter's death was captured on film, and Passaro was found to have acted in self-defense.

8. Beside - Asia Africa Arts Hall, Bandung, Indonesia - February 9, 2008

Courtesy of the band

An oversold venue was to blame for the deaths of 10 fans and the injuries of six at a concert by Indonesian metalcore band Beside. Conflicting reports on numbers seem to confirm that the venue, meant to hold 700, was well over capacity, with perhaps as many as 1,500 people inside.

The fans were killed in the crush as they tried to leave the packed venue while hundreds more were trying to force their way in.

9. Indiana State Fair - August 13, 2011

Indiana State Fair

On August 13, 2011 at the Indiana State Fair, music fans were assembling for a performance by country band Sugarland. Although police had issued a warning to the attendees that they may have to take cover due to severe weather, the concert was going on as planned.

During a gust of high wind, the rigging from the top of the stage was blown off, causing the stage to collapse on the crowd, killing five attendees and injuring dozens more. A sxth person died several days later from injuries.

The events were caught on tape.

Janet Jackson and Lady Antebellum, both of whom were scheduled to perform, chose to cancel their appearances.

10. Pukkelpop, Belgium - August 18, 2011


Pukkelpop is a yearly music festival that takes place near the city of Hasselt, Belgium. Featuring a wide range of acts from dance to punk to metal, previous notable acts have included Green Day, Metallica and Nirvana. The festival experienced a pair of deaths in 2010 (Call frontman Michael Been died of a heart attack and Ou Est Le Swimming Pool vocalist Charles Haddon committed suicide), but these pale in comparison to events in 2011.

During a severe storm on August 18, high wind and heavy rain caused a stage to collapse while Chicago band Smith Westerns were performing. Four were killed and over 70 injured. Organizers decided to cancelled the festival, where Eminem, Face to Face and Foo Fighters were scheduled to perform.

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