By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Neon lights cut through the darkness that filled Red Rocks Amphitheatre just before 1 a.m. on September 11, 2011. On stage, Sound Tribe Sector 9 started to play the final song of its encore, a meandering track called "Baraka" that starts out like a trippy lullaby punctuated by throbbing bass notes and then rises and falls in waves of cymbals, bongos and frantic electric guitar. The sold-out crowd whistled and cheered, hands in the air, as they bobbed along with the beat.
Forrest Hudspeth, then 24, was sitting in the tenth row, just in front of his girlfriend and her friend, enjoying the last bit of the show. Aware that the parking lot would soon be packed with people trying to leave, though, he turned toward them.
"Are you ready to go?" he asked, rising from his seat.
As he stood, something hit him on the top of his head — hard. Hudspeth blacked out and tumbled forward. When he came to, he was facedown on the concrete in row 7. He couldn't see, and he didn't understand how badly he'd been hurt. People were yelling at him to stay down, but in his confusion, he tried to stand up. Hudspeth passed out again, and when he woke up a second time, concert-goers were trying to stanch the blood that flowed from the gash in his head with shirts and other clothing.
A few rows down, Adam Kinnard was dancing to "Baraka" when a large rock struck him in the back of his right calf. Kinnard, then 23, had flown to Colorado from California for the band's three-night run, of which this was the last night. He'd seen STS9, a five-piece collective known for its unique brand of instrumental and computer-generated sound, dozens of times and counted himself among the band's followers — who range from noodle-dancing jam-band aficionados to glow-stick-twirling fans of electronic dance music.
At first, Kinnard wondered what had hit him. But then he saw it: a rock more than a foot long, about eight inches wide and four inches thick, lying in the row in front of him. It was the same reddish-brown color as the two iconic rock formations that flank the amphitheater and give Red Rocks its name.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Ackerman was standing with her cousin on the steps next to row 20. They'd just returned from the restroom and decided to listen to the rest of the show from the stairs rather than squeeze back to their seats. Ackerman's eyes were on the stage when something struck her in the head with such force that she fell on her face, unconscious. When she came to, the Denver mother of two, then 34, found that there was blood covering her face and soaking her hair. Nausea overcame her and she was sick to her stomach.
At around the same time — and thirty rows higher — David Scheuermann was sitting on the handrail of the stairs with his arm around his girlfriend. The couple had been heading toward the exit at the top of the amphitheater when they stopped to listen to the encore. Scheuermann, of Silverthorne, had just turned 23 a few days before, and the STS9 show was part of his birthday celebration. He remembers hearing a loud bang, like that of a firecracker or a gunshot, and then tipping forward off the handrail and landing on his chin. His first thought was that somebody had attacked him. He tried to get up to confront the aggressor, but he blacked out. The next thing he recalls, he was sitting against a stone wall.
"My girlfriend is crying like crazy, and I'm bleeding like crazy," Scheuermann tells Westword. "I sat against that stone wall, watching blood come into my hands, and that's when I was like, 'Shit, something is wrong here.'"
In all, medics at Red Rocks treated seven people who were hit by falling rocks that night, four of whom were transported to the hospital, according to incident reports. Hudspeth, Kinnard, Ackerman and Scheuermann were among those seven and are now suing the City of Denver, which owns Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
One of the big questions in the case is why the rocks fell. Could vibrations from the thumping music have knocked them free? Did people illegally climbing on the big rocks kick or throw them over the edge? Or had they simply been loosened by natural forces?
Regardless of the cause, the plaintiffs believe the city was lax in its efforts to prevent such an incident. Even though the engineers hired by Red Rocks repeatedly recommended that the venue be inspected and maintained every year, city officials decided to do that every three years instead — and 2011 was not one of those years.
The amphitheater at Red Rocks was formed hundreds of millions of years ago by water, wind and ice that eroded the ancestral Rocky Mountains, according to local historian Tom Noel's written history of the venue, Sacred Stones. What was left behind were two 300-foot sandstone monoliths. The monolith on the north side is known today as Creation Rock, the one on the south as Ship Rock. Together with Stage Rock to the east, they create what's considered to be the world's only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater.
The City of San Francisco is preparing to spend $60 Million to erect stainless steel netting to catch jumpers from the Golden Gate Bridge, which I think is the biggest waste of money since the bailout of GM--which ended up costing taxpayers over TEN BILLION DOLLARS!
Red Rocks, to be made ''safe'' from falling rocks, would require massive spending the State can't afford. Yes, annual inspections ARE warranted...but accidents will still happen. Instead of the State fighting $150,000 lawsuits from obviously aggrieved customers, it should pay them off, then make the risks of attendance to future events UNMISTAKABLY CLEAR!!
It also has to step up enforcement of public access from above, where a falling rock the size of a quarter could cause serious injury. Had this happened at a privately owned facility, all HELL would have broken loose, excuse the pun. The City of Denver reaps the rewards of Red Rocks concerts and should be held liable for the injuries of innocent customers by falling rocks.
Hahahaha Vanessa, my thoughts exactly. It was a freak NATURE accident that could happen anywhere. Red rocks is awesome and the city and venue shouldn't be punished by some assholes trying to get a little money out of an ACCIDENT
Forrest just thought you should see all the ignorant pretentious and hypocritical comments being posted.
The first 40 rows or so are fine. You're in denial via sentimentality. Try row 55 with a 20 mph west wind and get back to me.
I read it and I still say its there own damn fault. Stop with the lawsuits for your own stupidity people!
Even if engineers inspected the venue every week, rocks could still fall and hurt someone, especially if people out of bounds are precipitating the event. I could see a lawyer taking this stance however, its literally the only leg they would have to stand on. Negligence is a huge overstatement. IMO. But I suppose a "social marketing manager" knows all about this kinda stuff.
Idiot, they aren't suing the mountain. That's why reading a story helps. Hudspeth, Kinnard, Ackerman and Scheuermann were among those seven and are now suing the City of Denver, which owns Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
I should note that it appears to have been some time since any work has been done on Creation Rock," he continued. "It is vital that the City inspect this area at least annually to determine the condition both of the measures already in place and to look for new risks that have appeared over the previous months." - Joe Davis You guys should really read the story before making stupid and ridiculous statements. Titles of reports are usually misleading by the way. To understand the story, one must read the story.
Same thing applies if you are driving in the mountains and there's a rock or mud slide and hits your vehicle ...you going to sue the mountain?! Lol
Idiots it doesn't matter if they were or not!! The fact that they went to a show around rocks with loud bass, makes it their own fault since they knew the risk...I don't need to read anything to figure that out!!
Beautiful pei in your pic. Mine literally died tonight so I'm awake reading Facebook comments because I can't sleep. :(
Haha, well, liability is more complicated than that. Read the article. It's kind of scary how Denver has neglected to have the rocks inspected every year like they should.
They were sitting where they were supposed to be. Do you really think a lawsuit would fly if they weren't? Read the article.
Jennifer Marie Newell thank you! Please people read the article entirely ... then step outside of what you think and put yourself in their shoes ... I'll bet your opinion changes !
I don't think anyone read the article. People are so fast to share their opinions without having any basis whatsoever.
They were enjoying the show... not climbing on anything or doing anything stupid. Read the article; it states that engineers recommended it be inspected every year, but apparently it's only been happening every 3 years. These folks may have a case.
Did you read the article? Give it a look... At first I kinda thought it was a bullshit lawsuit, but read the article and you might change your mind.
Kay Dirling their were people up on the wall where they shouldn't be ... the hired security should have been making sure this wasn't happening. Not to mention the venue is required by law to check for rocks such as these prior to a show ...
Did you read the article? I haven't finished it yet, but apparently engineers recommend inspection of the venue every year. Instead, they've been inspecting it every 3 years. It being an "ironic venue where some of the greatest artists on the planet have played" is not an excuse for much...
I haven't finished the article yet but it sounds like the venue hasn't been inspected yearly like engineers recommend; instead it's every 3 years. If there's that kind of negligence, sounds like more than an unfortunate incident.
So many immature rude and uncalled for comments on this link! For example .. legan .... to call my brother sue happy ... after the tens of thousands of $ he had to pay for hospital bills ... all the time he's missed out on life because of the constant pain he's STILL in.... when it all could have been prevented had security/the state done their job...I don't think he fits into that category...then you want to go on to say they knew the risk.... what happens when you're driving your kids to mcdonalds for your happy meals and a drunk driver without insurance hits you? .....well you KNEW the risk right ......that's bullshit! They didn't know the risk they were under.a false sense of security ...thinking that someone had done their job ...they did nothing wrong nor were they somewhere they shouldn't have been ...do a little.research before you start preaching like an asshole!
I love Red Rocks as much as any Coloradoan, but describing it as "acoustically perfect" is ridiculous.
Just spent the night going over our contract for the wedding we booked at red rocks. This probably won't be the only law suit this summer.
@whosdp The GM bailout was necessary and effective. You don't know what you are talking about in regards to that issue. The netting and Red Rocks: agreed.
"Freak nature" wow... You sound extra educated. Did that education allow you the skills to read all the way through the article too? All the way to the end where they say Red Rocks new fans were unsafe but DIDN'T fix it.
"Getting money" to pay for lifelong medical bills because of a rockslide at a venue? A venue that has a huge liability insurance policy?
You need an education, honey.
@joefalco @whosdpI don't know why I'm getting into this, here, but...the GM bailout did, indeed cost taxpayers over $10 Billion, when the Government sold its GM stock. The only winners were the unions, which strengthened their clutches on the disgraced corporation. "Necessary?" Tell that to Ford! "Effective?" Other than the gas guzzlers on which it depends, GM's cars are junk--NOT ONE SMALL CAR OFFERING FROM GM IS "RECOMMENDED" By CONSUMER REPORTS.
Meanwhile, the recalls and lawsuits against the company just keep coming....
@joefalco Without the GM bailout, the Second Great Republican Depression would have been much worse.
@whosdp @joefalco at the depths of the 2009 recession a bankrupt GM would have pushed the world over the edge of the precipice. GM is the first domino. Their tentacles reach throughout the economy to include suppliers of parts, the service industry, pensions of retired persons,as well as the military. I'm not partial to GM but the 10 billion dollar bailout (drop in the bucket nowadays) was a bargain considering the alternative.