Concertgoers recollect horror during Phish’s concert at SF’s Chase Center

6 mins read

Susan Babuka and her nephew had tickets for the two-night concert of the band Phish at San Francisco’s Chase Center. On Saturday, she moved away from her seat.

“We were in the uppers, in [the] first row, and we sat down in our seats and sort of stood up to look around and I got vertigo,” the 56-year-old Babuka shared to SFGATE on Tuesday. “because the barriers are below, way below, waist height. They’re just above knee height, and they’re glass, you can’t see them. There’s nothing.”

With the fear that someone might fall, she gave up her prime seat. It was the first time she got safety concerns at the venue after several times she watched the band perform.

Two falls were reported during the second show. One of them died.

“We extend our heartfelt condolences to the guest’s loved ones,” Kimberly Veale, Chase Center spokeswoman, said in a statement to SFGATE. “We are working with the local authorities to determine exactly what happened.”

Demands to ensure safety at the venue were raised by fans who were present at the concert after the death of Ryan Prosser, 47, and the wounds incurred by two others.

One of the concertgoers who said that they are in the place the victim landed, spoke to SFGATE.

“I did not see it, but we all heard it,” the source, who is not identified for security reasons, said. “It was a massive bang. It was a really big, big sound. And I look over, and you know there are people crowded around already so I can’t quite see what’s in there, but somebody indicated that someone had fallen.”

Paramedics responded “literally within a minute,” the source said and tried to save the victim. Police came shortly and led the whole section out of the area.

Sadness covered the scene.

“One woman, I think, was really right where he landed [and] was just devastated, crying, just sitting on the floor outside the area. Everyone was in a state of shock,” the person said.

Another fall happened that night. Babuka and other concertgoers saw what happened but they had no idea that it was the second incident until the show concluded.

Babuka said it happened about halfway through the band’s set and her position was with a prime view as it was on the lower section on the second night. It did not, however, offer prime sound.

“I don’t care about seeing the band; I just want to hear the music,” she said. “And when we got up to leave, we noticed that an entire section of the venue was empty, which is, you know, odd.”

This made her and her group transfer to the second-highest section.

54-year-old Dan Fitzsimmons arrived at the venue late and noticed the unsteady seating arrangement.

“My seats were right up against the Plexiglas rail, and I’m 6-foot-1. That rail was probably six inches to eight inches below my waistline, or even farther. I mean, it’s below my crotch level.”

He also mentioned the narrow space between the rail and front row seats, saying that his knees were “right up against that Plexiglas.”

“When I got there, I was in my seat [and] I was like, ‘Oh my god, it is just so dangerous.’ It’s like a death trap up here … so I didn’t dance the whole show, because I didn’t feel comfortable.”

When Babuka and Fritzsimmons started to position during a set break, they witnessed the fall.

The sound was clear to Babuka while Fritsimmons said he had a glimpse of it  “from the corner of his eye.”

“It was just a really sickening thud,” Babuke described. “I’ve never heard a body fall before but you just kind of know it when you hear it. It makes a particular sound … and all of us went, ‘Oh, you know, that did not sound good.’”

Evan Reeves, the person where the victim landed, shared to KPIX said he pulled himself away after getting wounded.

“For many of us, going to Phish shows is an enormous source of joy and community and this terrible thing … made a joyous event terribly sad,” according to the anonymous source.

After what happened, Fritzsimmons said safety should be ensured on venues.

“To rearrange the seats and redesign all that would be a lot of money,” he said, “so the only thing … that wouldn’t be in the audience’s way is putting a safety net just below that rail all the way around … maybe six feet out.”