New York City, NY Stampede At Basketball Game, Dec 1991
EIGHT DIE IN CRUSH AT BENEFIT BALLGAME.
BODIES PILED UP AS TICKETHOLDERS FORCED THEIR WAY INTO AN OVERSOLD BASKETBALL GAME HOSTED BY RAP STARS.
New York (AP) -- A City College gymnasium where eight young people were killed in a pre-basketball game stampede was jammed with as many as 2,000 people beyond its legal capacity, police said Sunday.
Dozens were also injured Saturday night when gate-crashers invaded the "oversold" celebrity AIDS benefit, sparking a stampede that crushed hundreds of ticketholders at the bottom of a basement staircase.
Most of the injuries occurred near the door to a subterranean gym that was packed with thousands of spectators.
Charles Hirsch, chief medical examiner, said the eight people killed all were asphyxiated -- "squeezed front to back" -- in the stairwell. They included three women and five men and ranged in age from 16 to 28.
After viewing videotape shot from the bleachers, police said the gym contained up to 2,000 people more than its legal capacity of 2,730 and that tickets were still being sold at the door. "It was oversold," said Mayor David Dinkins.
The stampede pushed most victims down the stairs, squeezed them through a doorway and onto the gym floor. They tripped and fell over others waiting there, only to be crushed themselves by the next human wave.
"It was a cone effect," said ambulane worker Sy Collins. "The door opens and there were bodies on the floor and people were just running over them." Bodies piled up as many as six high.
The 29 people who sustained crushing injuries included five Emergency Medical Service staffers, some of whom were mauled as the crowd fought over their services.
Authorities and witnesses gave this outline of the tragedy:
By late afternoon thousands of people had lined up outside the City College gym in upper Manhattan for what was billed as the "Heavy D and Puff Daddy Celebrity Charity Basketball Game" to benefit AIDS education. The teams were to be captained by Heavy D and Puff Daddy, both rap stars.
A recorded telephone message told callers that al of the $12 advance tickets had been sold, but that tickets could be bought at the door for $20.
Chief of Patrol Mario Salvaggi said the school's security director called the police before the game and asked for help because the event was sold out. Police who arrived at 5 p.m. found a crowd of between 500 and 700 milling outside on Convent Avenue.
The game was scheduled to start at 6 p.m., and the doors opened at 5 p.m. Ticketholders passed through a glass door at street level, walked down a 12-foot wide staircase, and passed through a single metal door into the gym. By 7 p.m., the game still had not started, and people out on the street began pushing to get inside. A locked glass door was smashed, and people rushed into the gym building.
Randy Jones, 30, of the Bronx was standing inside the door to the gym. He said that when the invasion began a woman collecting money at the door got up, took a can holding the night's receipts, ran into the gym and closed the metal doors behind her, leaving the crowd up in the stairwell. Eventually event organizers began letting people from the stairwell into the gym, but only a few at a time, Jones said.
Finally people from the stairs began streamig into the gym, colliding with scores standing inside the door. Soon the floor was covered with people.
Post-Standard Syracuse New York 1991-12-30
List Of Casualties:
SONIA WILLIAMS, 20.
LEONARD NELSON, 17.
DIRK SWAIN, 20.
JABAL RAINEY, 15.
YUL DARGAN, 24.
DARREN BROWN, 28.