Remembering The Who tragedy 31 years ago - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Remembering The Who tragedy 31 years ago

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email|Facebook

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - They gathered to pray on the deck of U.S. Bank Arena, to light candles and to remember 11 victims from The Who concert at then Riverfront Coliseum, who got caught in a crushing crowd. Folks hope to one day put-up a permanent memorial to those who died.

One by one, they lit candles for the eleven who died, trying to get into The Who concert December 3rd, 1979. And like one man, who held up a cardboard sign proudly displaying his ticket from that night, his sign said he can never forget what happened outside.

"And the doors are closed," said WLW personality and attorney, Eric Deters. "And the people in the back didn't realize the doors were closed, so everybody's pushing through."

"I was being pushed all over," said concert survivor Thomas Brown. "I couldn't control any part of my body."

Brown was 17 at the time, when he got caught in the crush of that mob on the plaza. He talked about it on the FOX19 morning news, the morning of the anniversary.

"After a couple of minutes I was dragged through the crowd and when the sound check started, a girl's throat got trapped on a guy's elbow and she fell straight down onto my legs and I carried her all the way through the crowd, through the doors," Brown said.

That girl was able to walk away once they were inside. And on the 31st anniversary, crowds breezed through the same two doors for the Cyclones hockey game, young fans unaware of the tragedy 31 years ago.

"Nobody told The Who, and nobody told the fans," Deters said. "And the concert went on and you had all this horror outside those doors."

"A lot of people didn't know until the way home and heard it on the radio," said Who Memorial Organizer Rick Schweitzer. "And a lot of people didn't know until they got, their parents told them about it."

Schweitzer hopes to establish a permanent memorial on the site.

"And I was going to lie to my parents about going to do something else," Deters said. He spoke to a crowd after the candlelight tribute on the plaza, inside Longworth Hall.

Deters said he almost went, but ended-up not lying to his parents and stayed home. However, his buddy, Bryan Wagner, did go.

"One of the young men that died was Bryan Wagner," Deters said.

Wagner was also known to friends as "Bugsy".

"Most of the people said their feet were off the ground, and they were just being suffocated like, and moving and their feet weren't on the ground, it was such a horrible experience," Deters said. "It was the first time that I ever knew somebody as a young person, that died."

What happened here in Cincinnati changed the way people attended concerts worldwide, in terms of keeping you safe. There have been fundamental changes with security, tickets, with reserved seating, it changed everything.

After seeing Who Memorial Organizer Rick Schweitzer on our FOX19 morning news, Schweitzer said he got a call from Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune.

Schweitzer hopes an upcoming meeting will put them one-step closer to getting something permanent on the plaza, so nobody will ever forget what happened there 31 years ago. 

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