It was 39 years ago tonight (December 3rd, 1979) that 11 fans that died in a stampede while entering the Who’s concert at Cincinnati's Riverfront Coliseum. The tragedy — which all but eradicated festival concert seating for nearly two decades — happened when thousands of fans who were lined up outside the venue to make a mad dash for the stage upon the arena opening, rushed through only a few doors opened by the venue, flooding the lobby area, leaving nearly a dozen fans dead in their wake.
The fans killed in the stampede were Teva Ladd (27), Walter Adams, Jr. (22), James Warmoth (21), Phillip Snyder (20), David Heck (19), Stephan Preston (19), Peter Bowes (18), Connie Burns (18), Bryan Wagner (17), Karen Morrison (15), and Jacqueline Eckerle (15). A further 23 concert-goers were injured while attempting to enter the arena.
The victims’ families and the survivors sued the Who, the concert promoter Electric Factory Concerts, and the city of Cincinnati. The suit was settled in 1983 with the families each receiving $150,000 and the 23 survivors splitting $750,000 — roughly $32,000 each.
Pete Townshend revealed how the Who and its entourage dealt with the news of the Cincinnati tragedy following their show at Riverfront Coliseum: “That incident alone, was just appalling to me, absolutely appalling — I can't tell you. But what actually happened was I dealt with it, and the pain that it cause me, I think we all did, Bill Curbishley, me — our manager — y'know, a couple of the guys involved in the promotion of the concert, y'know, certainly all of us in the band and the women that were traveling with us at the time, whoever it was, y'know, by sitting there and getting drunk! There seemed to be nothing else that we could do, y'know, otherwise none of us were ever going to sleep. Y'know, we didn't know if we were responsible or not. We had no way or knowing what our role in it was.”
In 2015, a tribute to the victims was finally unveiled at Riverfront Coliseum — now renamed U.S. Bank Arena — and housed on the plaza level between the arena and the Great American Ball Park.