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Who victim's brother, survivor heal, honor dead

Posted at 12:45 PM, Dec 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-04 12:45:55-05

CINCINNATI – David Eavey came back every year to remember. Not Andy Bowes. He moved 1,000 miles away to forget.

But both men came to the site of The Who concert tragedy Thursday night to see a marker dedicated to the 11, including Bowes' brother, who died there.

The tribute has been 36 years in the making -- two lifetimes for Peter Bowes, one of the young concertgoers crushed in the crowd outside Riverfront Coliseum on Dec. 3, 1979.

Peter had just turned 18, excited to see his favorite band.

"Overused term. He was a good kid. He was a good student. I think he would have had a very good future ahead of him," Andy remembered Thursday before the 7 p.m. unveiling.

The memorial to the 11 victims was unveiled Thursday night. Photos by Ashley Zilka | WCPO

A crowd of thousands was waiting outside Riverfront Coliseum waiting to get in to the venue. There were no assigned seats and concertgoers were anxious to get inside and stake out a spot.

Only two doors were opened. The crowd surged forward, trampling 26 people and killing 11 others by asphyxiation.

Andy said driving by the Coliseum was so painful that he moved from Cincinnati to Florida a year later.

"I was just devastated," he said.

He was comforted Thursday by memories of vacations with his brother, especially when Peter was swimming in the Atlantic Ocean and a shark suddenly appeared.

"I thought I was going to watch my brother get eaten alive, but the shark just blew on by him," Andy said.

Coming back, Andy said he was amazed to see the city hasn't forgotten the tragedy and is permanently memorializing it.

"Nobody wanted this to happen," he said. "I think what happened was by accident. It happened by some stupidity or some poor planning."

At the memorial's unveiling, Bowes said he'd tried to "find the silver lining in the cloud" of his brother's death.

"And he accomplished one thing that I'll never accomplish, in that he made the cover of Rolling Stone ... needless to say, not under the circumstances I would have liked to see it, but he made it nevertheless," Bowes said.

Eavey was just 11 when he got caught in the human crush before the concert.

"I got knocked to the ground and got a broken hand, a torn shoulder, messed up back and messed up knee," said Eavey, now 47.

Luckily, others sheltered him from the surging crowd.

"If they hadn't kept people off me, I could have been No. 12," he said.

Eavey said he can't shake the memories.

"Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat and I still deal with the pain. It's just like it was yesterday."

Thirty-six years later, Guy Ninio, the chief paramedic on duty at The Who concert, still has nightmares about stepping into a room where seven victims were spread on the floor and on tables with little chance of saving them.

"I did my quick triage to every single victim and recognized that every single one of them were in a code-blue situation," Ninio told WCPO Tuesday in his first media interview about that night. "My criteria at that point had to change to pretty much wartime criteria -- who's got the best chance of survival -- and my only criteria was which one's the pinkest and warmest and go for that one, which I did."

Kasey Ladd, only 2, didn't go to the concert at Riverfront Coliseum on Dec. 3 , 1979. But his mother did. She was one of the 11 concertgoers who never came home.

Ladd helped memorialize her and the other victims by working to get a memorial marker on the plaza outside the front doors of the building, since renamed US Bank Arena. He says he will have mixed feelings when the marker is unveiled on the anniversary Thursday night.

"Happy. Sad. I'm happy that they're getting recognized, but still sad because these 11 kids ain't here. They'll never come back," Ladd said.

 

 
 

 

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