ST. LOUIS (AP) — A fast-moving storm ripped a large beer tent near Busch Stadium from its moorings and sent it and debris hurtling through the air Saturday, April 28th, killing one person, seriously injuring several others and causing a panic among the many Cardinals fans inside.
The tent collapse at Kilroy’s Sports Bar near Busch Stadium, one of several that cater to spillover bar crowds, happened about 80 minutes after St. Louis’ 7-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
Seventeen of the roughly 200 people in the tent were taken to hospitals and up to 100 others were treated at the scene.
Authorities didn’t disclose the name of the man who was killed or say how he died. Eddie Roth, the director of the city’s Department of Public Safety, said the man appeared to be in his 50s.
Most of the injuries were minor — cuts, bruises, twisted ankles, Deputy Fire Chief John Altmann said Saturday. He did not have details about those with serious injuries.
Questions about the tent’s safety, especially in dangerous weather, linger. St. Louis had been under thunderstorm watches and warnings for some time prior to Saturday’s incident.
Building Commissioner Frank Oswad said Kilroy’s was granted a tent permit on April 11 and it passed inspection a couple of days later. He said the city of St. Louis requires tents to be able to withstand winds up to 90 mph.
Roth said that straight-line winds of about 50 mph shattered the aluminum poles holding up Kilroy’s tent and blew the structure onto nearby railroad tracks.
Oswald declined to speculate about whether the bar could face discipline.
Both Oswald and Altmann cautioned that patrons need to understand that a tent is not a safe place to be in bad weather.
“Tents are temporary structures,” Oswald said. “They are certainly not designed in any stretch of the imagination to handle weather like this.”
Kilroy’s owner, Art Randall, said Saturday that it took about five seconds for the wind to lift the tent and send it and much of what was inside airborne.
“It was crazy, scary,” said Annie Randall, whose family owns the bar. “We’re just so sorry this happened.”
Janece Friederich was in the parking lot when she saw dark clouds approaching. Before she could get out of the car and go into the bar, she saw the tent fly into the air.
“It looked like it just got ripped out because it ended up 100 feet in the air on top of the railroad tracks,” Friederich said.
Art Randall said he heard a boom and first thought a derailed train had struck the tent, but which he believes was a lightning strike. He said firefighters told him lightning, not flying debris, killed the man. But neither Roth nor Altmann would confirm the man’s cause of death or that lightning had struck.
“My wife had people in the beer cooler. We had the beer cooler loaded with injuries,” Randall said. “It was a triage deal.”
About two hours after the incident at Kilroy’s, tornado sirens blared throughout the city after a funnel cloud sighting. There were several reports of tree damage, power lines down and damage from hail that in some parts of the region reportedly was as big as tennis balls.
St. Louis outfielder Jon Jay took to social media before Sunday afternoon’s game, acknowledging the incident on Twitter.
“My prayers are with everyone affected by the unfortunate events at Kilroy’s yesterday,” he wrote.