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1 Dead, 3 Hurt in Violence at Rock Concerts

June 16, 1986|BOB SCHWARTZ | Times Staff Writer

One man died and at least three suffered serious injuries at weekend rock concerts in Long Beach headlined by heavy metal performer Ozzy Osbourne, authorities said Sunday.

The dead man was identified as John Loftus, 22, of Fullerton, by the coroner's office.

Long Beach Police Lt. Bart Day said Loftus "fell over backwards because he was probably overdosing, hit his head, broke his neck and died."

Day and convention center officials downplayed the death, saying that it was an accident and that the number of injuries and arrests at the concerts were not unusual.

But paramedics and officials from Long Beach hospitals said they have been swamped with emergency calls as a result of Osbourne's concerts, held Friday and Saturday nights at the Long Beach Convention Center/Arena. A third concert at the 14,000-seat arena went on Sunday night.

Paramedics Tied Up for Hours

Long Beach Fire Dispatcher Ken Driver said paramedics were tied up "for about four hours" Saturday night transporting concertgoers to area hospitals. He said the number of calls was "definitely much higher" than normal during rock concerts at the arena.

Paramedics brought Loftus, already in full cardiac arrest, to St. Mary Medical Center about 9:20 p.m. Saturday, a spokeswoman said. He was pronounced dead by doctors 10 minutes later of an apparent broken neck.

Details of the events leading to the death and injuries at Saturday's sold-out concert, which also featured the group Metallica, were few.

Dr. Dale Harrier, director of trauma and critical care at the medical center, said Loftus and three other patients were brought in at the same time. Paramedics told emergency room personnel that all four had jumped off the balcony onto the next level, the physician said. Metallica was onstage when the jumping incidents occurred at about 8:30 p.m.

"We asked one kid why he jumped and he said, 'for life,' " Harrier said.

One of the three jumpers who was injured, Eric Hobbs, 17, of Newport Beach was comatose Sunday. Tom Dearinger, 23, of Buena Park was in guarded condition with a concussion. A third, Timothy Mestas, 17, of Los Angeles was in fair condition with cuts and bruises.

Harrier said that another man was injured after he jumped off a bridge in Long Beach on Saturday afternoon. The unidentified man, who was treated and released, told doctors that he was despondent because his tickets to that night's Osbourne concert had been stolen.

Harrier said emergency room doctors ". . . became upset at what was happening (at the Osbourne concert). We have not had this degree of tragedy because of a concert before."

George Matson, vice president and general manager for the convention center, said the incidents were not unusual.

"Normally, at an event of this size, we have 10 to 12 people treated for various things," he said. "On Friday we had 12, on Saturday, 19."

When asked if the venue would book acts like Osbourne again, Matson said: "We provide facilities for entertainment. The people demand entertainment, we will book any event, whatever the people want."

Mestas said he did not remember much. "A lot of people were real polluted (under the influence of alcohol or drugs), then they started jumping off the balcony, or they were pushed off," he said.

The high school junior said he did not know if he jumped or was pushed. His mother, Helen Mestas, said her son had been drinking vodka and had smoked some pot.

"A lot of people were like slamming--you know, they get in a circle and hop, just hitting each other, bumping into each other--and it got too crazy," the teen-ager said. " . . . I just remember waking up (at the hospital) with a tube in my mouth."

Osbourne, 37, has drawn criticism for his hard-driving songs with lyrics that allude to violence and drug use. In January, the parents of John McCollum, a Riverside teen-ager who committed suicide in 1984 while reportedly listening to an Osbourne song titled "Suicide Solution," filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the singer, claiming that the song helped push McCollum over the brink of depression.

Most concertgoers Saturday, including attorney Howard Weitzman, who has represented Osbourne, said they were unaware of any unusual activity.

"There was nothing provocative that I saw," Weitzman said.

Tim Ryan, senior events coordinator for the Convention Center, said medical personnel and the security force for Sunday night's concert were increased. Late Sunday, arena officials said a few fans were treated for minor injuries.

Times staff writer Alan Goldstein contributed to this article.

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