A railing collapsed in the stands during the Army-Navy game Saturday, injuring nine Army cadets and prep school students and leaving one with a broken neck, but no spinal injuries.
The uniformed fans were cheering for television cameras after Army took a 31-30 lead on a 70-yard touchdown run with 7:33 left in the game. A railing in the first row of the east end zone in Veterans Stadium gave way, causing the personnel to fall about 15 feet onto the ground.
The game, which Army won 34-30, was suspended for 31 minutes as four ambulances drove onto the field. Seven were expected to be released with injuries such as sprained ankles, necks and backs, said Army Capt. John Cornelio, a spokesman at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
Two more also were in stable condition, but needed more tests, including the one with a broken bone in his neck.
"There is a broken bone in the neck, however his spine is OK and they're doing other tests," Cornelio said. "... We're extremely worried. We're concerned because cadets were injured. That's serious stuff."
The injured were four cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and five students from academy prep school in Fort Monmouth, N.J.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to them," Army coach Bob Sutton said. "At Army, we try and operate not just as a football team. We are the corps, community and army all together as one."
"When those guys were injured, it's like one of your own guys going down."
Witnesses said the railings in the temporary stands, used only for football, were held together by duct tape. The accident happened in the same spot where Midshipmen had sneaked beneath the stands to tear apart an Army banner earlier in the game.
It wasn't known whether the incidents were related. During a tug-of-war for the banner earlier, one cadet fell onto the field but landed on his feet.
"If you look at the tape that CBS had up, it does not appear to me that anybody was tugging on a banner when that thing went," said Lt. Col. Bill Harkey, West Point's director of public affairs. "I don't know that there was anybody there from Navy at the time of the event."
Gerald Ravitz, father of Army co-captain Neil Ravitz, waon the field and said he saw the first person to hit the ground.
"It could have been my kid in the stands," said Ravitz, in tears.
The accident marred a thrilling, record-setting game in the 99th meeting between the rival academies. It also put into question the safety of the stadium, a 27-year-old multipurpose facility hosting the game for the 15th time. It was the second mishap in three days, following the malfunctioning of the play clocks in the NFL game between Philadelphia and St. Louis on Thursday night.
The railing fell between sections 271 and 272, where gray-uniformed cadets sat with prep students. Play resumed at 3:51 p.m. with Navy punting toward the end zone where the accident occurred.
Cadets and Midshipmen who had been cheering nearly nonstop since well before kickoff sat in eerie silence, clapping politely as the emergency vehicles left the field.
The mishap came after Army's Ty Amey ran 70 yards for a touchdown that gave the Cadets a 31-30 lead after they trailed 30-19 at the start of the fourth quarter. The fans were cheering for CBS television cameras when the railing fell, sending them toppling to the turf. It wasn't on live TV, but CBS showed the replay.
© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved