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05-07-01 news
Tragic death hits Flatley show...

Only two nights after joined The Lord of the Dance Micheal Flatley in NY a rigger on one of his shows died in a sudden accident. Kevin Finn had climbed a steel ladder at Continental Arena in East Rutherford many times to take his position behind a spotlight. But last Sunday night, something went horribly wrong.

Moments before the Feet of Flames performance was to begin, Finn inexplicably fell 20 feet to his death, landing between two musicians and just 6 feet from star dancer Michael Flatley.

The fall took place behind the curtain and out of view of the audience. The performance was delayed for 40 minutes while rescue workers tried to save Finn according to the New Jersey news.

"We really don't know precisely how it happened," said Dan DiTolla, president of Local 632 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, of which Finn was a member.

A preliminary investigation found that Finn had been wearing his safety harness, said Sgt. Al Della Fave, a state police spokesman. Apparently, though, it was not attached to the support structure for the lights.

No one knew why Finn had not attached his safety equipment, DiTolla said. "Kevin was a veteran and one of our best people at doing this," said Joe Villani, business manager of the union. "Why he was not clipped in, we don't understand."

State police are ruling the death accidental; other government agencies are investigating. Finn, 41, was assigned to run one of the spotlights hanging from the ceiling. The job would have been familiar to him. He was to sit on the truss and, listening over a headset, take cues from the lighting designer: widen the beam, shorten the beam, move the light, change the colors, or focus on one performer or another.

"He was a skilled operator who had done this for 20 years," DiTolla said. The fall occurred at 8 p.m. New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority emergency medical technicians attended to Finn. He was rushed to Riverside Hospital in Secaucus, where he was pronounced dead, Della Fave said.

As far as could be determined Monday, the audience was not aware of the frantic activity taking place just beyond their view. Flatley asked the crew members if the show should be canceled, and they said no, according to Villani.

"You have a house that has 10,000 to 15,000 people in it," he said. "You have to go on with the show."

Later, after the performance got under way, Flatley announced that "a young man was seriously hurt here tonight" and said that he wanted to dedicate the show to him, Villani said.

Bob Nesoff, a spokesman for the Bergen County Sheriff's Office who was at the performance because he is a fan of Irish dancing, had heard the thud behind the curtain.

"Then silence," he said. "I remember thinking, 'That's one hell of a special effect they're setting up.' " The curtains remained closed.

About 15 minutes after the fall, a woman with an Irish brogue announced that there were technical problems, and apologized for the delay, Nesoff said.

After 15 more minutes, restless audience members began to clap their hands and stomp their feet, and the same woman returned to the microphone and again explained that technical difficulties had delayed the show, Nesoff said.

The performance began at 8:40 p.m. "I guess the show goes on," Nesoff said. Authorities believed it was the first fatality of any worker at the Meadowlands Sport Complex.

Finn, who lived with his mother in Brooklyn, is also survived by an older brother, union members said, adding that another brother died last year. A man who identified himself as his older brother declined to comment when reached by telephone Monday.

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