AP Was There: Coverage of The Who concert where 11 died

FILE - In this Dec. 3, 1979 file photo, concert-goers and a policeman stand with a pile of shoes and clothing which were left after a crowd surged toward doors to Cincinnati's riverfront coliseum to get into a rock concert by British rock band The Who, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Eleven fans where killed in the tragedy. (AP Photo/Brian Horton, File)
FILE – In this Dec. 3, 1979 file photo, concert-goers and a policeman stand with a pile of shoes and clothing which were left after a crowd surged toward doors to Cincinnati’s riverfront coliseum to get into a rock concert by British rock band The Who, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Eleven fans where killed in the tragedy. (AP Photo/Brian Horton, File) (AP/Brian Horton)
FILE - In this Dec. 3, 1979 file photo, Cincinnati police officers help people crushed during a performance by the rock group The Who in Cincinnati, Ohio. Eleven fans of the rock band were killed when a thousands-strong crowd stampeded to get into Cincinnati’s riverfront coliseum.  (Ed Reinke/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP, File)
FILE – In this Dec. 3, 1979 file photo, Cincinnati police officers help people crushed during a performance by the rock group The Who in Cincinnati, Ohio. Eleven fans of the rock band were killed when a thousands-strong crowd stampeded to get into Cincinnati’s riverfront coliseum. (Ed Reinke/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP, File) (AP/Ed Reinke)
FILE - In this Dec. 3, 1979 file photo, a security guard and an unidentified man look at an area where several people were killed as they were caught in a surging crowd entering Cincinnati's riverfront coliseum for a concert by the British rock band The Who. (AP Photo/Brian Horton, File)
FILE – In this Dec. 3, 1979 file photo, a security guard and an unidentified man look at an area where several people were killed as they were caught in a surging crowd entering Cincinnati’s riverfront coliseum for a concert by the British rock band The Who. (AP Photo/Brian Horton, File) (AP/Brian Horton)
FILE - In this Dec. 4, 1979 file photo, a young man shields his candle from the wind during a memorial service for those killed during a stampede at a rock concert by the British rock band The Who at Cincinnati riverfront coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio. (AP Photo/Brian Horton, File)
FILE – In this Dec. 4, 1979 file photo, a young man shields his candle from the wind during a memorial service for those killed during a stampede at a rock concert by the British rock band The Who at Cincinnati riverfront coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio. (AP Photo/Brian Horton, File) (AP/Brian Horton)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 photo, a memorial plaque for eleven concertgoers killed at a 1979 concert stands between Great American Ballpark and Heritage Bank Arena,  in Cincinnati. Tragedy four decades ago linked the British rock band The Who to a small suburban city in Ohio. In recent years, members of the community and the band have bonded through a project to memorialize the three teens from Finneytown who were killed in a frantic stampede of people trying to get into The Who’s Dec. 3, 1979, Cincinnati concert. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 photo, a memorial plaque for eleven concertgoers killed at a 1979 concert stands between Great American Ballpark and Heritage Bank Arena, in Cincinnati. Tragedy four decades ago linked the British rock band The Who to a small suburban city in Ohio. In recent years, members of the community and the band have bonded through a project to memorialize the three teens from Finneytown who were killed in a frantic stampede of people trying to get into The Who’s Dec. 3, 1979, Cincinnati concert. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (AP/John Minchillo)
Fred Wittenbaum
In this Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019 photo, pictures of the three Finneytown students killed in a stampede at The Who’s Dec. 3, 1979 concert, are displayed in a memorial cabinet along with other mementoes at the Finneytown High School secondary campus in Finneytown, Ohio. Tragedy four decades ago linked the British rock band to the small suburban city in Ohio. In recent years, members of the community and the band have bonded through a project to memorialize the teens. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (AP/John Minchillo)
Fred Wittenbaum
In this Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019 photo, Fred Wittenbaum, of the P.E.M. scholarship that memorializes the three Finneytown students killed in a stampede at The Who’s Dec. 3, 1979 concert, stands beside a cabinet of mementoes honoring the dead at the Finneytown High School secondary campus, in Finneytown, Ohio. Tragedy four decades ago linked the British rock band to the small suburban city in Ohio. In recent years, members of the community and the band have bonded through a project to memorialize the teens. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (AP/John Minchillo)
Fred Wittenbaum
In this Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019 photo, the faces of the three Finneytown students killed in a stampede at The Who’s Dec. 3, 1979 concert, are displayed as part of a memorial at the Finneytown High School secondary campus in Finneytown, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (AP/John Minchillo)
Fred Wittenbaum
In this Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019 photo, Fred Wittenbaum, of the P.E.M. scholarship that memorializes the three Finneytown students killed in a stampede at The Who’s Dec. 3, 1979 concert, is interviewed beside a quilted memorial to the dead at the Finneytown High School secondary campus, in Finneytown, Ohio. The small Cincinnati suburb and the British rock band became linked by tragedy 40 years ago. The tragedy has in recent years led to a bond, as The Who has helped memorialize the teens with a scholarship fund benefiting students in their honor every year. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (AP/John Minchillo)
In this Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019 photo, a signed microphone by The Who's Roger Daltrey is displayed in a memorial cabinet at the Finneytown High School secondary campus in Finneytown, Ohio, along with other mementoes of the three Finneytown students killed in a stampede at the band's 1979 Cincinnati concert. Tragedy four decades ago linked the British rock band to the small suburban city in Ohio. In recent years, members of the community and the band have bonded through a project to memorialize the teens. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
In this Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019 photo, a signed microphone by The Who’s Roger Daltrey is displayed in a memorial cabinet at the Finneytown High School secondary campus in Finneytown, Ohio, along with other mementoes of the three Finneytown students killed in a stampede at the band’s 1979 Cincinnati concert. Tragedy four decades ago linked the British rock band to the small suburban city in Ohio. In recent years, members of the community and the band have bonded through a project to memorialize the teens. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (AP/John Minchillo)
Fred Wittenbaum
In this Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019 photo, Fred Wittenbaum, of the P.E.M. scholarship that memorializes the three Finneytown students killed in a stampede at The Who’s Dec. 3, 1979 concert, is interviewed beside a cabinet of mementos honoring the dead at the Finneytown High School secondary campus, in Finneytown, Ohio. The small Cincinnati suburb and the British rock band became linked by tragedy 40 years ago. The tragedy has in recent years led to a bond, as The Who has helped memorialize the teens with a scholarship fund benefiting students in their honor every year. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (AP/John Minchillo)
In this Nov. 25, 2019 photo, Finneytown High School alumnus John Hutchins displays a Dec. 3, 1979, concert ticket signed in 2018 by The Who's vocalist Roger Daltrey as he stands in his home near Finneytown, Ohio. Hutchins helped organize a memorial scholarship fund to honor three Finneytown students killed in a fan stampede at The Who's Cincinnati concert 40 years ago. (AP Photo/Dan Sewell)
In this Nov. 25, 2019 photo, Finneytown High School alumnus John Hutchins displays a Dec. 3, 1979, concert ticket signed in 2018 by The Who’s vocalist Roger Daltrey as he stands in his home near Finneytown, Ohio. Hutchins helped organize a memorial scholarship fund to honor three Finneytown students killed in a fan stampede at The Who’s Cincinnati concert 40 years ago. (AP Photo/Dan Sewell) (AP/Dan Sewell)
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FILE - In this Dec. 3, 1979 file photo, concert-goers and a policeman stand with a pile of shoes and clothing which were left after a crowd surged toward doors to Cincinnati's riverfront coliseum to get into a rock concert by British rock band The Who, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Eleven fans where killed in the tragedy. (AP Photo/Brian Horton, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 3, 1979 file photo, Cincinnati police officers help people crushed during a performance by the rock group The Who in Cincinnati, Ohio. Eleven fans of the rock band were killed when a thousands-strong crowd stampeded to get into Cincinnati’s riverfront coliseum.  (Ed Reinke/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 3, 1979 file photo, a security guard and an unidentified man look at an area where several people were killed as they were caught in a surging crowd entering Cincinnati's riverfront coliseum for a concert by the British rock band The Who. (AP Photo/Brian Horton, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 4, 1979 file photo, a young man shields his candle from the wind during a memorial service for those killed during a stampede at a rock concert by the British rock band The Who at Cincinnati riverfront coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio. (AP Photo/Brian Horton, File)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 photo, a memorial plaque for eleven concertgoers killed at a 1979 concert stands between Great American Ballpark and Heritage Bank Arena,  in Cincinnati. Tragedy four decades ago linked the British rock band The Who to a small suburban city in Ohio. In recent years, members of the community and the band have bonded through a project to memorialize the three teens from Finneytown who were killed in a frantic stampede of people trying to get into The Who’s Dec. 3, 1979, Cincinnati concert. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Fred Wittenbaum
Fred Wittenbaum
Fred Wittenbaum
Fred Wittenbaum
In this Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019 photo, a signed microphone by The Who's Roger Daltrey is displayed in a memorial cabinet at the Finneytown High School secondary campus in Finneytown, Ohio, along with other mementoes of the three Finneytown students killed in a stampede at the band's 1979 Cincinnati concert. Tragedy four decades ago linked the British rock band to the small suburban city in Ohio. In recent years, members of the community and the band have bonded through a project to memorialize the teens. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Fred Wittenbaum
In this Nov. 25, 2019 photo, Finneytown High School alumnus John Hutchins displays a Dec. 3, 1979, concert ticket signed in 2018 by The Who's vocalist Roger Daltrey as he stands in his home near Finneytown, Ohio. Hutchins helped organize a memorial scholarship fund to honor three Finneytown students killed in a fan stampede at The Who's Cincinnati concert 40 years ago. (AP Photo/Dan Sewell)

CINCINNATI (AP) — EDITOR’S NOTE — On Dec. 3, 1979, an eagerly awaited concert by the British rock band The Who was transformed by tragedy, as 11 people were killed in a mad scramble by thousands of fans trying to get into Cincinnati’s riverfront coliseum. Three of those killed had attended the same high school in a small suburban city that became forever tied to the group that’s now in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the deadly concert, The AP is republishing its report from Cincinnati on that night.

Dec. 3, 1979

Stampede at concert kills 11

By BILL VALE

Panicked fans stampeded their way into a rock concert by The Who on Monday night, and Fire Chief Burt Lugananni said at least 11 people were killed in the crush.

At least eight persons suffered serious injuries, officials said, and many other sustained minor injuries. The injured were taken to five hospitals.

Ray Schwertman, a 49-year-old usher, said the crowed surged through the door to the 17,000-seat Riverfront Coliseum just before the gates were to open at 7 p.m.

“First, they threw a bottle through a window in the door. Then they pushed through the hole, making it bigger. Three of four of us tried to hold them back, but it was no use …

“We couldn’t hold them back … They carried in one boy and laid him on a table and he died. Others were laying out on the plaza,” said Schwertman.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Lugananni said. “I can’t even tell you what killed them.”

Officials listed the dead — most of them said to be of high school or college age — as seven males and four females. Their identities were not released Monday night.

Dr. Alex Trott, emergency room supervisor at Cincinnati General Hospital, said the victims suffered multiple bruises, and “there was some evidence of footprint-like injuries.”

The concert, which was sold out, went on as scheduled after the victims were taken away. Many concertgoers were apparently unaware of the deaths and injuries, and they were not mentioned from the stage.

Concertgoer Michael Jordan, 17, said: “I was in the middle. It was crazy. You had to fight to save your life.”

Fifteen-year-old Suzanne Sudrack said: “You could see people getting hurt. People were flailing elbows and smashing noses. You could see people going down”

A paramedic, who asked not to be identified, said: “We have all sorts of life saving devices. We have drugs. We have highly trained people, and none of it did a bit of good. They just died. We couldn’t save a one of them.”

Jeff Chaney, an Army veteran and a student at Miami (Ohio) University, said he did mouth-to-mouth, resuscitation and tried to save three of the victims, failing “because people just didn’t seem to care.”

He said one woman was alive and clutching his leg as he tried to unsort the pile of people but died before she could be freed. The concertgoers, he said, “could see the people all piled up and they still tried to climb over them just to get up front.”

Cincinnati Public Safety director Richard Castellini said the victims were apparently trampled or suffocated. He said the rush on the door occurred because some seats for the concert were reserved while others were available on a first-come, first-served basis. He said he would seek an ordinance to require that only reserved seats be sold to such concerts in the future.

Mayor J. Kenneth Blackwell, who was sworn into his first term Saturday, said many concertgoers stood in line for up to seven hours, and “when they saw the doors open, everybody made a mad rush — they lost all sense of rationality.”

He added: ”There were thousands of youngsters here, some drinking beer, some smoking marijuana and others just wanting to get in out of the cold.”

Blackwell said the concert went on as scheduled because officials feared a riot might break out if it were called off.

The coliseum where the incident occurred is the site of most rock concerts in Cincinnati.

The Who, among the most enduring of the British rock groups, performed the soundtrack for the recently released film, Quadrophenia. The group wrote the rock opera Tommy, which also became a movie.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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