A thunderstorm forced an early end to yesterday's Freedom for Tibet concert at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington after 11 people were struck by lightning, four of whom were rushed to D.C. General Hospital.
One of the four people hospitalized -- a woman -- was listed in critical condition, a District of Columbia Police Department spokesman said. Two of the other three are in stable condition, and one left on his own.
Paramedics treated five others at the stadium, the spokeswoman said. None of the injured was identified.
Today's second and last day of the concert is scheduled to go on as planned, said Lt. Brendan Burke of the D.C. Fire Department.
The third annual concert, featuring many of the world's top rock bands, was stopped about 4 p.m.
Lightning first struck RFK Stadium at 3: 45, as Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters performed "Tip Toe." There were several more strikes as the band played on. Then -- after the concert Jumbotron video screens went blank -- the show was stopped.
One concertgoer, Jimmy Jellinek, 23, of New York City, saw lightning hit someone. "I saw, like out of a science fiction movie, a single lightning bolt come down, like it was perfectly placed."
Jellinek said he saw a flash, and soon the victim was given cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
"It happened really, really quick," said Jellinek, who said he was "shaken up" but nonetheless hoped the show would go on. It was officially canceled for the day at 4: 50 p.m.
Lightning struck outside the circular stadium near a pedestrian tunnel and inside the stadium in seats on the lower level behind the dugouts, a Fire Department official said.
Burke said there were seven crews of two paramedics each stationed throughout the stadium. After the lightning struck, Burke said, supervisors called for additional units. He said paramedics had little trouble getting to or tending to people.
"Thirty-five firefighters and paramedics responded, and it worked out," he said. The paramedics revived the woman with CPR, he said, before she was taken to D.C. General, then to a burn unit at Washington Hospital Center, he said.
After the show was canceled, rain-soaked rock fans stood shoulder to shoulder on the stadium concourse, smoking, munching nachos and complaining about their bad luck.
Ian Manire, 17, and four friends had driven all the way from Little Rock, Ark., specifically to see the British band Radiohead close yesterday's show. But the show ended long before Radiohead could play. "We don't have tickets for tomorrow," Manire said. "I'm feeling a little confused."
Concert with conscience
Before the storm, the Tibetan Freedom Concert seemed a roaring success, with some 60,000 fans moshing to the band, Live, and swaying happily to the Dave Matthews Band. Another 60,000 fans are expected today.
But it wasn't just about music. It was also, as many of the artists pointed out in a pre-concert news conference, about conscience and responsibility.
"Rock stars don't have much of a moral high ground, but in this case they do," said Radiohead singer Thom Yorke.
Before the cancellation, Dave Pan, 17, from Gaithersburg, sat outside the stadium and proudly displayed his American Civil Liberties Union card.
"I know I've got a Sierra Club card in here somewhere," said Pan, rummaging through his wallet.
Pan and others challenged the popular belief that most of the audience came only for the music, an impressive lineup featuring Pearl Jam, Beck, The Beastie Boys, R.E.M, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Wallflowers and many more.
Shaven-headed Tibetan monks and Mohawked teens alike gathered. The Tibetan concert, held in San Francisco its first year and in New York last year, is intended to raise awareness and money for the Milarepa Fund, a charity founded by the Beastie Boys seeking to free Tibet from oppressive Chinese rule.
Not all of the concertgoers are as socially or geographically conscious as Pan, though, who, when presented with a world map and asked to identify Tibet, immediately pointed to the correct location.
That was not the case for lip-ringed Tiffany Rivera.
"It's in China," said Rivera, 17, of Leesburg, Va., pointing directly at Australia.
"China, Australia -- it's all the same."
The concert's vendor area had a Tibetan flavor, with kiosks offering hats and "Free Tibet" wallets woven out of hemp by Tibetan villagers, to Tibetan food such as fried rice and flat bread.
Pub Date: 6/14/98