Whether it's a fan dying at a sporting event or a player cut down in their prime, when tragedy strikes in the sports world, it hits fans hard. Perhaps it's because we see sports stars as immortal; athletes that can run fast, jump high, and hit hard. Or, maybe it is the innocence that sports still exudes to fans. Sure, there are multi-million-dollar contracts and billions of dollars in revenue in play, but the raw emotion shown through sports is simply unparalleled.
The emotion is what keeps the fans coming through the gates, and unfortunately, it has been the driving force behind some of the worst disasters in sports history. Overcrowding the stands and a lack of emergency support services have resulted in thousands of deaths at some of the world’s biggest matches. In similar fashion, tragedy can strike when you would least expect it. As athletes board their planes and buses, they would hardly think that their lives were on the line as they close their eyes for a little shut-eye.
On March 2, 2007, the baseball players and coaches from Bluffton University were hardly thinking that they were on the last bus ride of their lives. As they travelled through Georgia en route to Sarasota Florida, the bus driver lost control and flipped over a bridge, killing 7 and injuring 21. This is just one example of how quickly things can change, not just for individuals, but communities as a whole. Here are 10 other tragic accidents that have shocked the sports world, and led to major changes in policy and safety at sporting events around the globe.
10 1972 Andes Flight Disaster -- 29 Dead, 16 Survivors
9 2001/2011 Oklahoma State University Plane Crashes -- 8 and 4 Dead, Respectively
On January 27, 2001, a plane taking off from Jefferson County Airport crashed near Stillwater Regional Airport, killing two players and six members of the broadcast and coaching staff of the Men’s Basketball team. The pilot had become disoriented in a snowstorm and lost control of the plane. A memorial was erected in their honor, coining the phrase “Remember the Ten” for those 10 who lost their lives.
8 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing -- 3 Dead, 264 Injured
7 1972 Roberto Clemente Crash -- 5 Dead
6 1989 World Series Earthquake -- 63 Dead, 4,000 Injured
5 1972 Munich Massacre -- 11 Dead
4 1955 24 Hour Le Mans Tragedy -- 84 Dead, 120 Injured
3 1985 Bradford City Stadium Fire -- 56 Dead, 265 Injured
2 1970 Marshall Plane Crash -- 75 Dead
1 1989 Hillsborough Disaster - 96 Dead, 766 Injured
Even if you don’t watch European football very often, chances are you have heard about the Hillsborough disaster at some point. During the first round of the FA Cup in Sheffield, England, 96 people were killed as overcrowding led to a structural compromise of the facility and hundreds were crushed. To make matters worse, of those 96 fatalities, only 14 of them made it to the hospital; the rest had died at the stadium. In the aftermath of the incident, the police and EMS were criticized for responding late and allowing so many extra fans into the contest. As recently as 2012, the Hillsborough Independent Panel found that the main cause of the disaster was due to the “lack of police control,” citing that crowd safety had been compromised at every possible level. The damning report also noted that of those 96 deaths, up to 41 could have survived had emergency services been in place on site.
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