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Deck Collapses, Injuring More Than 100 Grateful Dead Fans

July 6, 1995

WENTZVILLE, Mo. (AP) _ For the carefree nomads who call themselves Deadheads, it was near-nirvana _ a night of dancing and partying as an early summer rain fell.

But the celebration took a tragic turn just before midnight Wednesday when a wooden deck collapsed at a campground lodge, injuring more than 100 Grateful Dead fans camping near this eastern Missouri town.

Most of the victims were in their teens and early 20s. Sixteen were admitted to hospitals; five were in critical condition Thursday, including Dustin Grella, 24, of McDina, Ohio, who broke his neck.

Most of the others suffered broken bones, said Martin Limbert of the St. Charles County Ambulance District.

Police said heavy rain sent hundreds of people scurrying to cover on or under the deck attached to the lodge at the Pinewoods Park campground, about 40 miles west of St. Louis.

The 40-foot-by-10-foot deck stood about 12 feet off the ground and was covered by an overhanging roof. The roof also collapsed.

St. Charles County investigators were trying to determine the cause of the collapse. Some partygoers blamed it on the weight of hundreds of people.

``I was underneath,″ said Mike Luden, 20, of St. Louis. ``Everybody was just partying. Then there were two loud snaps and the whole thing just came down on top of everybody.″

Luden was treated for back, shoulder and head injuries.

About 4,000 Deadheads have taken up residence at the campground. Many fans follow the band on its tours around the country. The Grateful Dead performed Wednesday and was scheduled to play again Thursday in suburban St. Louis.

``It amounts to a tragic accident happening to members of your family,″ said Dennis McNally, publicist for the band. ``In our hearts we’ll play tonight’s show for them.″

Most of those injured were not among the 20,000 fans at the show, which ended at about the time the accident happened.

By sunrise Thursday, the American flag at the lodge had been lowered to half-staff. Some of the Deadheads carried flowers and burned incense. Signs around the camp proclaimed ``Wish them well″ and ``We will survive.″

A crowd of campers milled around the fallen deck, where hats, liquor bottles and shoes were strewn about.

Two fans were found dead at the campground Tuesday night and Wednesday from what may have been drug overdoses.

On Sunday, fans without tickets stormed a fence and threw rocks and bottles at police outside a Grateful Dead concert in suburban Indianapolis. About 220 officers in riot gear quelled the crowd with tear gas, pepper spray and police dogs. The band’s Monday night concert there was canceled.

Authorities said there were no major problems at the St. Louis concert Wednesday night.

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