By C. Bottomley|
One of KISS' celebratory farewell concerts in California was marred by tragedy on Thursday (March 23) when a member of the KISS Army plunged to his death. The man, a biochemist identified as Shawn Stubblefield, tumbled from the upper tier of the Oakland Arena and fell to his death. Upon arriving at Highland Hospital, the 36-year-old Stubblefield was pronounced dead from the injuries he sustained.
Stubblefield reportedly fell from a retaining wall where he was positioned, plummeting 40 feet before hitting a concrete abutment. He then fell another 15 feet to the first tier of seating. Police have called the incident an accident. According to the Oakland Tribune, the noise from KISS' set was so loud that most of the fans and the band were unaware that the tragedy had occurred until the concert had come to a close.
KISS' management said that band members were upset about the accident. But they emphasized that the death was not caused by their own elaborate live production.
Ken Zendels, a KISS fan who also scaled the wall, told the Tribune's Laura Counts he witnessed the fall. Zendels said, "His hands went up [when he apparently lost his balance] and he was gone. We looked over the edge and we knew he was a goner. He was lying in a pool of blood."
"The strangest thing was it happened at a very weird time," Zendels said. "Gene Simmons was doing a solo, singing 'God of Thunder,' with blood coming out of his mouth and sticking out his tongue. Then they hoisted [Simmons] up on a crane over the stage."
SMG, the company that owns the Oakland Arena venue, issued a statement that in part read, "This was an unfortunate and tragic accident and our sympathy goes out to the family. The Arena in Oakland meets or exceeds the safety codes regarding public assembly facilities and strives to maintain a safe environment for all our patrons."
The president of Oakland's City Council, Ignacio De La Fuenete, told the Tribune, "It's impossible to predict everything that could happen. This guy had climbed up on a ledge where he wasn't supposed to go, and as far as we know, he just went over. There's not so much we can do to prevent everything people could think of that's unsafe. We had full security at the show."
Stubblefield had climbed on top of the retaining wall on the third tier of the arena to try and get a better view of KISS' show. SMG's statement emphasized that this was "an area that was not intended as a seating area."
Stubblefield had just celebrated his 36th birthday on March 15. He had attended the gig with his brother Brian and some friends, who sat in the top row of section 203. They remained oblivious to his fall, believing that he had gone to the bathroom. It was only when police canvassed the audience after the show that they learned of Stubblefield's accident.
Police officer George Phillips told Rolling Stone, "His friends weren't even aware that he was gone when he fell. We can't say that alcohol and drugs were the cause, but we can say he and his friends were drinking prior to the fall."
KISS fan Ken Zendels told the Tribune that Stubblefield wasn't the only one who thought the retaining wall provided a better vantage point. "We were sitting in a lower section and we decided to go up there because it looked like a flat ledge to stand on and dance," he said. Zendels was discouraged from continuing after a water bottle fell of the ledge.