ST. LOUIS (AP) — High winds swept through a beer tent where 200 people gathered after a Cardinals game Saturday, killing one and seriously injuring at least five others, authorities said.
The owner of the bar where the tent was set up said firefighters told him that the patron who died was struck by lightning, but Deputy Fire Chief John Altmann and Public Safety Director Eddie Roth said they didn't know what killed the man.
At least 17 people were hospitalized, including five who were initially in critical condition but are now said to be in serious condition. Up to 100 people were treated at the scene, mostly for minor injuries such as cuts and bruises.
Officials said straight-line winds whipped through the 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.
Roth 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, 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," Randall said.
The bar owner said he screamed for help and three customers ran over to administer CPR, but they couldn't save the man.
Randall said he looked around "and saw 50 bodies scattered everywhere."
The man who died appeared to be in his 50s, Roth said. 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.
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, the bar owner 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 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.