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UPDATE: One dead after storm blows over beer tent in St. Louis

Saturday, April 28, 2012 | 8:26 p.m. CDT; updated 3:13 p.m. CDT, Sunday, April 29, 2012

ST. LOUIS (AP) — High winds swept through a beer tent where 200 people gathered after a Cardinals game Saturday, killing one and critically injuring at least five others, authorities said. But the owner of the bar said it was lightning — not wind — that killed the patron.

At least 17 were hospitalized and up to 100 people were treated at the scene after officials said straight-line winds whipped through a large tent outside Kilroy's Sports Bar, near Busch Stadium. The crowd was celebrating after the Cardinals beat Milwaukee 7-3 earlier in the afternoon.

Eddie Roth, director for the St. Louis Department of Public Safety, said winds of about 50 mph shattered aluminum poles that held up the tent, which was located south of the stadium. The force of the wind blew the tent onto an adjacent railroad bridge.

"It was crazy, scary," said Annie Randall, whose family owns Kilroy's. "We're just so sorry this happened."

Kilroy's owner Art Randall described a short burst of a storm — perhaps five seconds, he said — with a massive wind that lifted the huge tent, threw it perhaps 100 feet into the air and sent the aluminum poles and most everything in the tent airborne.

When he heard the boom, he initially thought a train had derailed into the tent.

As the wind blew, a bolt of lightning crashed into the bar, Art Randall said. He said firefighters told him it was a lightning strike — not flying debris — that killed the man.

"At some point in that five seconds, we were getting lightning strikes, and apparently one of our customers got hit by lightning right in the middle of the dance floor," Art Randall said.

Art Randall said he screamed for help and three customers ran over to administer CPR, but they couldn't save the man.

Art Randall looked around "and saw 50 bodies scattered everywhere."

St. Louis public safety director Eddie Roth said the man killed appeared to be in his 50s. His name has not been released.

Roth said the tent had passed inspection and it didn't appear there would be any violation, although the investigation is ongoing.

Art Randall described a scene in which barstools, pedestals and a 100-pound bass amplifier were flying through the air. The disc jockey working the party was struck by the amp and knocked unconscious, he said, and people were scurrying to help one another.

"My wife had people in the beer cooler — we had the beer cooler loaded with injuries," Randall said. "It was a triage deal."

Kilroy's is among several bars near Busch Stadium, and many bars set up tents for the excess business after Cardinals games. Crowds were also large because the St. Louis Blues were playing against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night in the first game of the NHL's Western Conference semifinals.

The St. Louis area was under thunderstorm and tornado warnings several times Saturday. About two hours after the incident at Kilroy's, tornado sirens blared throughout the city after a funnel cloud sighting. There were several reports of tree damage, power lines down and damage from hail that in some parts of the region reportedly was as big as tennis balls.


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