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Bowie Show Canceled After Stagehand Dies

May 7, 2004 | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Rock star David Bowie's Reality Tour was cut short by a jolt of real drama Thursday night after a worker fell off a wire ladder above the stage at the James L. Knight Center, plunging about 50 feet to his death.

The worker, identified by a fellow stagehand as Wally Thomas, fell on the right side of the stage around 8:30 p.m., Miami Fire-Rescue spokesman Ignatius Carroll said. Thomas was climbing the ladder but investigators were trying to figure out why he fell.

Thomas, 44, was working as a spotlight technician, Carroll said. Paramedics rushed the man to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Armando Curonel, who also was working as a stagehand, said Thomas was not wearing a safety harness.

"The mood is very somber and very devastated," Curonel said of the crew. "He's an experienced stagehand, 20 years."

Curonel said Thomas was filling in for another worker and wasn't originally scheduled to work. When asked if such accidents are common, he said, "It's very rare, but it's also a dangerous job. You have to know what you're doing."

The accident occurred shortly after Stereophonics, Bowie's opening act, finished performing, and before Bowie took the stage. Around 9:10 p.m., a voice blared over the auditorium loudspeakers announcing the show was over.

"Due to an unfortunate and serious accident involving one of the local stage hands working the show, we are canceling the show," the voice said. The voice also asked people to leave in a calm, orderly fashion.

The auditorium was sold out, with about 4,600 in attendance.

Concertgoers quietly walked out of the venue, and no one could be heard complaining about the cancellation. Some fans stopped at a concession stand to buy David Bowie T-shirts.

Ray McLaughlin, 41, of Fort Lauderdale, said he saw the accident from his seat.

"They brought the stretcher and there were about six cops hanging out backstage, but it didn't look good," McLaughin said.

Officials with Clear Channel Entertainment, the show's promoter, issued a statement saying refund or postponement information would be available shortly.

David Bowie issued a statement saying he and his touring company were "deeply saddened by the news of this tragic accident, and send their sincerest condolences and thoughts to the stagehand's family and friends."

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