Two fans were critically injured and dozens more were hurt when thousands of jubilant fans poured onto the field Saturday after Wisconsin’s victory over Michigan.
Wisconsin security chief Susan Riseling said about 12,000 spectators scrambled out of five student sections after Wisconsin’s 13-10 victory. The injured fans were trampled in the rush.
The surging crowd collapsed chain-link and rail fences separating them from the end zone. Police struggled to clear the crowd so that paramedics could reach the injured, some of them on the field and others still in the stands.
The injured lay helpless as sobbing friends, who had planned to celebrate, knelt by their sides calling for assistance. Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Panos waded into the crowd and began carrying away some of the injured.
“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen,” Panos said. “I had to do what I had to do. A couple of them were blue, literally blue.”
The Wisconsin band, known for its postgame concerts in front of the student section, played only a few songs before leaving the field as medical crews arrived.
As the game ended, Wisconsin Athletic Director Pat Richter approached the student section and held his hands up with palms out, imploring the fans to stay back. But by then it was too late as fans had already begun to surge forward and past security personnel.
Riseling said about 75 were injured, but reports from the city’s three hospitals later indicated that 80 were examined or treated. Of those, 16 were hospitalized, two in critical condition.
“The game is insignificant,” Richter said after viewing the injured. He described the crush of fans trying to reach the field as “a domino effect.”
Spectators in the end-zone portion of Camp Randall Stadium pushed forward as the game ended. Metal rail fences lining the front of the stands collapsed, and a chain-link fence about five feet high separating a walkway from the playing field also went down, pulling up its concrete footings.
The cheering ceased within 10 minutes as a public address announcer alerted the crowd to the injuries.
“We tried to get some of the people back so the people below them who were getting trampled could get out,” said John Brogan, a Dane County deputy sheriff.
“It was just too loud for them to hear. People kept falling on top of each other.”
Said freshman Jennifer Hartzell, 18: “People were pushing down. I was pushed down, too, but the people in front were mainly the people who got trampled. Everybody rushed onto the field and maybe seven people were on the goal post rocking it.”
The goal posts stood. They are specially designed to withstand assault.
Riseling said the security strategy “didn’t work.” Anticipating fans on the field in case Wisconsin won, police were instructed to fall back and surround the goal posts, preventing fans from injuring themselves by climbing on them.
“There are not enough police in all of Dane County to handle 12,000 surging people in that section of stadium,” she said. “We have seen nothing like the surge that we saw today before in Madison.”
Said Richter: “The people on the bottom had nowhere to go. . . . It’s tragic. You can see the devastation and it makes you sick.
“Somebody probably started some movement on the top. People started falling down and leaning down. All the rows were leaning on each other. It was pent-up emotion, and it got out of control.”