Fans at S.F. Phish concert recount horror as man died at Chase Center – San Francisco Chronicle

Officials at San Francisco’s Chase Center, the home of the Golden State Warriors, are assuring fans that the venue is safe after one man died and at least two people were injured in separate incidents during a Phish concert Sunday.

Though details about how and why the injuries occurred are still under investigation, the San Francisco Police Department on Tuesday said there is no evidence of foul play and that the death, which occurred about 8:55 p.m., may have occurred after a man intentionally jumped from a balcony.

“The investigation has evidence to believe the victim leapt from an elevated area of the arena causing him to fall a significant distance, which caused his injuries,” said Officer Robert Rueca, public information officer for San Francisco Police Department. “Immediately before the victim leapt, he did not appear to have any physical contact with any person or barrier/railing.”

The San Francisco Medical Examiner identified the man who died as 47-year-old Ryan Prosser of Athens, N.Y.

The second incident was likely accidental and occurred when a man fell from the venue’s upper levels at about 9:45 p.m., according to multiple accounts of the episodes that were posted to social media by other concertgoers.

“The rows are so steep that when he began to fall, there was no stopping,” said Dan Fitzsimmons of Kelseyville (Lake County), who was among concert attendees witnessing the second incident.

Warriors and Chase Center spokesperson Kimberly Veale told The Chronicle that officials at the venue are awaiting the “findings of proper authorities” to determine what happened before commenting on the incidents.

“Chase Center was built and is operated in accordance with all safety standards and requirements governing facilities of its kind in the state of California and the city and county of San Francisco,” Veale said.

A concert headlined by the country music duo Dan + Shay is scheduled for Wednesday, followed by the Warriors’ home opener on Thursday and a two-night stint by the Eagles on Friday and Saturday.

Johnny Greavu had gotten tickets in the upper deck for the sold out Dead and Co. show at Chase Center on New Year’s Eve 2019, but left that concert early “because I was so freaked out at how steep it was,” he said Tuesday. “Those railings are only waist high.”

Vowing to never again buy upper-deck tickets at Chase, he was in section 116, the lower level, mid-row, mid-court, with seven friends at Phish. It was 8:50 p.m., almost an hour into the first set. The band was playing “Destiny Unbound.”

“We heard a large thump, a big bang,” said Greavu, 29. “We thought someone fell from a few rows behind us. We were all looking around. Then we look and there is a body in front of us.”

The victim had clipped the shoulders of two friends sitting in front of Greavu.

“He fell on seats that were — thank god — unoccupied,” Greavu said. “He covered at least two of them and one was broken. I’m struggling to get the image out of my head. I think he died on impact because he didn’t move at all.”

Someone ran up the steps to the concourse and came back with two police officers followed by a medic. The band played on and the light show stayed on through the next song. Soon the body was removed and a tarp placed over the landing spot. Greavu and his seven friends left section 116.

“We were walking around at intermission and most people weren’t aware of it,” Greavu said. “I debated leaving but ended up staying though I couldn’t really enjoy the show.”

Fitzsimmons, who sat in the 219 section of the arena during Sunday’s concert, said he saw a man — in the second incident — fall through a “large opening” in the section and plummet down. Describing the steep seating, he called the arena “a death trap,” and said the barriers designed to protect the audience in the upper tiers are too low.

“When I first got the arena, my seat was up against the safety plexiglass,” Fitzsimmons said. “I did not feel safe as I am 6 foot and the safety glass came below my hip. One bad move, I could go over. So we moved up a row. Even there, I did not feel safe dancing as the seats on the downslope barely reach over your ankles.”

Venue Solutions Group, which assisted in the development of safety and engineering at Chase Center, declined to comment.

Incidents such as these are rare but do happen, said journalist Don Muret, who has reported extensively about the construction and operation of arenas and stadiums as senior editor of the industry journal VenuesNow.

Fans are seen inside the Chase Center before the start of a Metallica concert in September. This month, one person died at the Chase Center in a fall during a Phish concert.

Fans are seen inside the Chase Center before the start of a Metallica concert in September. This month, one person died at the Chase Center in a fall during a Phish concert.

Nick Otto/Special to The Chronicle

“Everybody is trying to design the most intimate bowl,” he said, referring to the seating area inside the arena that wraps around the stage. “When you’re squeezing the bowl, you’re going to have that very steep incline, especially in the upper decks. That appears to be the general trend.”

In August, a man fell from a balcony to his death at a Dead & Company concert at Citi Field in New York. Another man suffered serious injuries after falling off the upper level of the Hollywood Palladium during a Blink-182 concert in 2013.

Closer to home, a San Jose man jumped to his death from the roof of the stage at Saratoga’s Mountain Winery during a concert by the Swell Season in 2008.

Muret said he had seen speculation online that the initial fall at Chase Center on Sunday was intentional.

“In circumstances like that, I’m not sure there’s much the venue operators could do,” he said.

Evan Reeves, a 44-year-old Oakland man who was struck by the victim in the second of Sunday’s incidents at Chase, told KPIX that he suffered a broken leg but received consent from the venue’s on-site doctor to finish watching the show in a wheelchair before being taken to the hospital.

A representative for the band Phish, which played at the venue on Saturday as well as Sunday, directed requests for comment to Chase Center officials.

Especially when alcohol or other substances are involved, Muret said, it can be difficult for fans to navigate venues that are already tough to get around.

“When the lights go down, sometimes you don’t see everything that’s going on,” Muret said. “People are up and dancing and having a good time. People are looking down at their phones. Sometimes they’re not paying attention.”

The arena in Mission Bay, which has a listed capacity of 18,064, premiered to great fanfare in September 2019 with a run of joint concerts featuring Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony. It was open to audiences for about six months before it closed due to state and local coronavirus mandates.

Chase Center reopened to live audiences for Warriors games in the spring, and concerts resumed in September.

Chronicle staff writers Sam Whiting and Annie Vainshtein contributed to this report.

Aidin Vaziri is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: avaziri@sfchronicle.com

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