Friday, August 22, 2014
Between Youngsters and Disaster
Only 100 Police Between Youngsters and Disaster
The Province (newspaper)
One hundred Vancouver policemen stood between 20,000 hysterical youngsters and disaster at Empire's Stadium Saturday night.
The moment the mop-haired Beatles appeared on stage, one-third of the audience on the field left their chairs and benches to jam up against the first of four crush barriers.
About 35 police and some extra hands strained every muscle to keep the wildly shrieking mob from breaking this all-important lifeline.
Time and again officers fought their way into the crowd to rescue youngsters from almost certain death under the feet of their co-howlers.
Police Inspector F.C. (Bud) Errington looked out over the mass of twisted, tear-stained faces and said, "there's no comparison with any other crowd I've seen. At least the others still could think to some degree. These people have lost all ability to think."
Later, he said, "Every policeman there was happy they didn't have to pack away seriously injured children. One hundred policemen were there. That's all that stood between the way it would up and a national tragedy."
Police and stadium employees barely managed to hold that first four-foot-high fencing from toppling under the weight of the screaming mob.
what was giving police the most concern was thousands of teenagers outside the stadium gates. Three attempts were made to smash down the northwest gate before it finally buckled under the strain second after the Beatles began their performance.
About a dozen or so manged to make it inside before police and ushers braced the gate back up against the opening and held it upright with their bodies.
Then began the steady stream of wailing youngsters, mostly girls no older than nine or 10, to the first air centres and the emergency post set up behind the stage by the firemen.
One girl, he leg covered with dirt and bleeding from a cut, screamed, "don't take me out, I love them, I want to say!" as a St. John Ambulance attendant took her away for treatment.
Because of the explosive situation near the stage, Errington was forced to call for the assistance of a police dog and handler to guard the south gate for the rest of the evening.
The Beatles began and the shrieking youngsters pressed forward against the barrier. The din never diminished throughout the rest of the act. But, throughout it all, the velvet collared, mop-top Beatles kept signing and playing. Then, the Beatles completed something called Long Tall Sally, bend forward in a low bow while shedding their instruments and made a mad dash to three waiting limousines.
The motorcycles roared, the gate swung open and out they beatled. The exit had taken less than 30 seconds.
Deputy Chief Constable John Fisk, on hand during the performance, said the timing of the exit was the key to preventing any further trouble.
"Leaving would be the major problem, based on what occurred in other cities." said Fisk. It had to be timed down to the split second. Everything went off perfectly.
Later, Errington said one youngster threw a bicycle in front of the lead motorcycle in the procession in hopes of stopping the exit.
However, the motorcycles and limousines managed to drive around it without altering speed. The Beatles were taken directly to the airport, where they caught a plane to Los Angeles.