A 31-year-old Rolling Stones fan, who police say was drunk at the time, died during the group's show at the Pontiac Silverdome Tuesday night after falling from a second-tier balcony.
Eric Zylema, a native of Caledonia, Mich., was trying to dance on a railing during one of the band's encores, when he slipped and fell about 23 feet from the club level, landing on his head in an aisle on the venue's first tier of seating, according to police. Zylema was highly intoxicated at the time of the accident, police said, adding that it was the first accident-related death at the stadium.
"There was a fan, a doctor, who was nearby and began administering emergency service immediately," said Sgt. Conway Thompson of the Pontiac Police Department, who was working the show that night. "And it happened near the medical office in the venue, so official medical response arrived within a minute."
Zylema was bleeding profusely from his head after the fall, Conway said. He was announced dead at the Pontiac Osteopathic Hospital at 11:30 p.m., just as the concert was drawing to a close.
Neither Eric Walker, executive director of the Pontiac Silverdome, nor representatives for the Rolling Stones, could be reached for comment at press time.
Thompson, who was among 500 members of venue security -- including Pontiac and Michigan State Police -- on duty that night, said alcohol may have played a role in Zylema's death. Thompson reported that Zylema's blood alcohol level was .21 percent, well above the legal level. In Michigan, .10 percent is considered legally intoxicated.
As is customary at the venue, beer sales were cut off at 10:15 p.m. to the 50,000 in attendance, according to police.
"It was very dark in the venue," said Thompson, explaining how the victim managed to climb the railings unabated. "The lights are aimed so you can see the people onstage, so there's no way we could have prevented this unless there's a security person in front of every seat."
Otherwise, the crowd was "well-behaved," Thompson said, adding that there were only five ejections, five minor arrests and 10 minor citations that night.
"We've had four other deaths here before that were health-related, [such as] heart attacks," Thompson said. "But this is the first time in 22 years that a person has died from this kind of thing." -- Gil Kaufman [Wed., Dec. 3, 1997, 4 p.m. PDT]