Missouri Tent Collapse Raises Safety Questions

By ABC News

Apr 29, 2012 5:52pm
AP Missouri tent collapse jt 120429 wblog Missouri Tent Collapse Raises Safety Questions

(Sid Hastings/AP Photo)

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe and Alex Perez report:

ST. LOUIS — Baseball fans in St. Louis have had a lot to celebrate in the past year, but on Saturday evening – after another win by the defending champion Cardinals — cheers turned to screams when a sudden storm proved deadly.

With 200 fans packed into Kilroy’s beer garden tent, a powerful gust of straight line winds tore down the tent, sending metal rods flying and injuring a hundred people.

One man in the tent was reportedly struck by lightning and died of a heart attack. The owner of Kilroy’s, Art Randall, performed CPR on the victim, but it was too late.

“My heart bleeds for every person here that bled,” Randall told ABC News Sunday morning, tears in his eyes as he stood outside a bar that has seen many a celebration, but now, also, tragedy.

As of this afternoon, nine patients from the scene remained in area hospitals: five at Barnes Jewish Hospital, their specific conditions unknown; and four at University Hospital, two in the ICU — one in critical condition, one serious — and another two in fair condition, St. Louis Fire Department spokesman Dan Sutter said.

St. Louis Public Safety Director Eddie Roth told ABC News that Saturday evening’s tragedy has left him wondering if establishments such as Kilroy’s should start using designated weather watchers to provide advice to patrons on approaching inclement weather and help them take shelter if necessary.

At the time of Saturday’s incident, St. Louis was under a severe thunderstorm warning.

“The sky went black,” Randall said. “Nobody stood a chance. It was, it was just bodies scattered everywhere. The tent just rolled clean up under the railroad tracks.”

More bad weather was expected to hit this afternoon. Around mid-day, Thomas Briggs at the National Weather Service said a large body of thunderstorms was passing north and west of the metro area, but the worst storms would steer clear of downtown.

That was welcome news for baseball fans here who came out — again — in droves for a Cardinals’ game today. Under gray, overcast skies, fans flooded in to Busch Stadium, with tents — like the one that collapsed at Kilroy’s — again set up in the area outside the ballpark. The rains held off. The game went on.

Kilroy’s, however, was closed for the day. A sign on the door read, “Cardinal Nation — We are closed today due to the tragic events that occurred here yesterday. Please keep those that were affected and their families in your thoughts and prayers. Sincerely, the Kilroy family.”

Outside the bar, a small shrine with candles and flowers was set up against one wall. On the other side of the parking lot, clean-up crews swept away the remnants of the destroyed tent.

“My family is having trouble with this,” Randall said. “There’s a lot of families having trouble with this. I’ve got customers that are going to be second guessing, ‘Did I do enough?’ Just like I’m doing.

“You don’t see this thing coming,” he said. “There is no preparation you can take for when it happens. … I’m debating right now, do I want to do this anymore?”

This is not the first time that straight line winds have wreaked havoc. They are also blamed for the horrifying stage collapse that killed seven people at the Sugarland concert in Indiana last summer. And three years ago in Canada a fan at an AC-DC concert was crushed to death after winds caused a stage collapse there.

If any positives can come out of this weekend’s tragedy, Randall said, it’s the knowledge that everyone at his bar selflessly jumped in to help when disaster struck.

“Everybody did everything,” he said. “If you ever had a cynical bone in your body about your fellow man, forget it — people are better than you think.”

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