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Chase Center Under Inspection After Deadly Fall at Phish Show

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An exterior view of the Chase Center on March 12, 2020 in San Francisco, California.  (Ezra Shaw)

Update, Oct. 21, 1pm: A Department of Building Inspection spokesperson tells KQED that two inspectors visited the Chase Center and found it to be code compliant.

Original post:

The Phish concert at the Chase Center on Sunday, Oct. 17, ended in tragedy when one audience member died in a fall from a balcony, and two others were injured in a separate fall less than an hour later.

The San Francisco Police Department tells KQED that it believes the first man, 47-year-old Ryan Prosser, leapt from an upper level of the arena. Police say they don’t believe the second man jumped intentionally, and multiple witnesses have described the incident as an accident.

Now, some concertgoers are questioning whether the building is safe, and the city is investigating.

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According to public records, a person filed a complaint to the Department of Building Inspection on Oct. 18, describing steep staircases leading into low guardrails in the arena’s balcony sections, calling the layout “unsafe.” The name of the complainant was redacted in the report. As required for every complaint, the Department of Building Inspection will inspect the arena.

The Chase Center’s layout alarmed San Francisco physician Sara Sani, who was in the audience at the Oct. 17 concert and, before EMTs arrived, provided first aid to the man who survived his fall at 9:45pm.

“I went to the head of the person who had fallen and asked him some questions to see how he was doing and where he had injuries, and [I] stabilized his neck,” Sani tells KQED. “He was totally lucid and said his back hurt and that he couldn’t move his left leg.”

On stage in Eugene, Oregon on Tuesday, Phish’s Trey Anastasio identified the man as Keith Thompson, the husband of Carrie Thompson, the event manager for the band’s Sacramento concert last week. “We’re sending our love to everybody involved,” he said.

Sani says Thompson’s brother had witnessed the fall and told her the fallen man slipped, tried to avoid some people and tumbled down.

“The rows are so steep that when he began to fall, there was no stopping,” a witness, Dan Fitzsimmons, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Evan Reeves, who suffered a broken leg after Thompson landed on him, told KPIX that he had moved down to a lower section before the incident because he didn’t feel safe dancing in the upper seats.

“To me, that’s a real structural concern,” Sani says. “It’s a public venue. People are going to have accidents whether they’re drinking or not. I’m worried people are going to fall and get injured and possibly die again if they don’t do something about that structural setup.”

Sani says she waited with the man for 5–10 minutes until EMTs arrived. “There wasn’t official medical personnel for quite a while, and you would hope and expect that they’d show up quickly at a big venue like that,” she says. “People can definitely have life-threatening injuries that can kill them quickly in any kind of fall.”

Sani says she was so rattled by the incident that she contacted the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

KQED asked the Chase Center’s representatives whether the venue would make any kind of safety modifications in the wake of the two tragedies.

“Chase Center is a safe, state-of-the-art arena that was built and is operated in accordance with all applicable safety requirements governing facilities of its kind,” wrote spokesperson Kimberly Veale in an email. “We went through a rigorous process with the Department of Building Inspection to obtain our requisite permits to open Chase Center. Further, DBI is conducting (and we are looking forward to) an additional inspection similar to the one the venue previously passed.”

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