WrestleMania is something special, a date on the calendar that wrestling fans await with great anticipation each year. But for these fans in attendance at WrestleMania 24 in Orlando, Florida, it was a day that ended with sadness, anger, and confusion.
The Time Things Didn’t Go Right For Fans at WrestleMania 24
The visual of WrestleMania itself is a sight to behold. The elaborates stage and set designs, the creative entrances, the big stars you don’t often get to see all make the event so watchable. Add pyrotechnics to it all, and the visual of the whole spectacle becomes magnified to a grander scale.
As WrestleMania 24 was coming to a close on March 30, 2008, following the Edge vs. Undertaker main event, the final set of fireworks took place. What should’ve been a "wow" moment for the fans in attendance at WrestleMania 24 looking at the grand display of fireworks turned into another type of moment altogether… A horrifying surprise they did not see coming.
Fireworks were being set off all over the Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. There were cables the fireworks were sliding down, and successfully too for the first few times — until around the fourth go around. The fireworks were sliding down a rope that suddenly snapped and landed into a mass of people in the crowd. There were about forty people injured, receiving burns and welts. Although the majority of the injuries were thankfully minor, three people left in an ambulance and were treated in a hospital.
Firsthand Accounts of WrestleMania 24 Malfunction
For these fans, what should’ve been a complete feeling of jubilation, enjoying "The Show of Shows" firsthand, ended with sadness, anger, and confusion.
One of the victims, Barbara Vetere, in an interview with WFTV.com, said: "It felt like a whip. I have a welt on my neck. It was like a baseball bat hit me. It was horrible. Horrible."
Firefighters said they acted quickly, but fan Barbara Vetere argued that.
"We had to sit up in the bleachers and wait for a paramedic to come. They didn’t really examine us. And we had to walk all the way down to first aid and had to ask for a bag of ice just to put on our head."
This wasn’t only a shock for the fans struck by the fireworks. There were many fans nearby the chaos watching on too. Wrestling fan RJ Bock was close by to the frightening fireworks accident and spoke to MyFox Orlando.
"The fireworks were supposed to guide along the wires… And two of them, three of them made it across and the fourth one, you saw a bright flash of light and then I saw the wire dropdown. I don’t know how it broke, but obviously, it broke."
RJ continued his interview with MyFox Orlando, "When I looked up to my left, you saw that people were scurrying and that there was a fireball in the stands that wasn’t supposed to be there."
Were First Responders Too Slow?
Shannon Butler of MyFox Orlando, who did a report on the firework accident on Monday after WrestleMania 24, tells what the Orlando Fire Department had to say in response to the fans saying the treatment was slow.
"Look, we knew the accident happened. They had plenty of staff at this event like they do at most of their events.’ They said they immediately sprung into action, even setting up a triage center, but they said, ‘You have to realize that the event was just about ready to get out, so people were already starting to come out, we’re talking about 74,000 people.’ They said, ‘It just took a while for us to get over there. We weren’t slow on reacting, that’s just how long it took to get through all that mass of people."
News anchor Mike Dunston adds after Sharon’s report, "I guess you can’t expect instant attention, it takes a little while!"
Assistant Chief Gregg Hoggatt of the Orlando Fire Department described what he saw when attending to the victims. "You can see the marks on a few people where hot wires crossed and fireworks touched them."
With WWE’s reputation on the line, they released an official statement shortly after WrestleMania 24 concluded:
"We’re investigating the incident and doing everything we can to find out why it happened and to make sure it never happens again. While we apologize to anyone who was injured and/or alarmed by this occurrence, we take solace in the fact that the reported injuries were minor."
It appears it was just an unlikely freak accident that unfortunately left a shadow of gloom over WrestleMania 24. As for it never happening again, largely that has remained true. There haven’t been any incidents involving fans since the accident at WrestleMania 24, but there has been an incident where a talent was harmed and two other separate incidents involving pyrotechnics where no one was hurt.
At the 2010 Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, The Undertaker’s famous entrance was cut short because he was caught in between flames that were supposed to be going off in the distant background. The Undertaker wrestled through first and second-degree burns, and the man behind the pyrotechnics never came face-to-face with the Undertaker. He was escorted from the arena and fired.
The RAW following the celebration of 1000 episodes, RAW 1001, there was a pyrotechnics rehearsal before the doors were opened to the public just to make sure everything was in order and working fine. It turns out it wasn’t. Part of the titantron caught fire in the midst of the rehearsal. The show still started on time; however, the doors opening to the public was pushed back an hour, leaving some seats unfilled as RAW began. Fans were slowly filling the arena as they only had thirty minutes from doors to showtime.
Irony struck once again at WrestleMania 33. The Undertaker had finished a main event match at the Camping World Stadium, just like he had done nine WrestleMania’s beforehand, and there was a pyro accident, again! Luckily, the fans weren’t involved in this one. What appeared to be Undertaker’s retirement match, the fans watched on with great content, admiring the legendary Deadman. The Undertaker raised his hand as the camera panned away slowly, creating a chilling visual of The Undertaker slowly fading away. This prompted an array of fireworks. The set of WrestleMania 33 briefly caught fire before it was extinguished. No one was hurt.
Fireworks are awesome when nobody gets hurt.
Watch Footage of the WrestleMania 24 Incident Below:
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