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Witnesses say situation at Riverside Theater wasn't handled well after man collapses

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- There was chaos inside a sold out concert hall in Milwaukee Thursday night as paramedics try to save a man in the crowd.

On Friday CBS 58 spoke with witnesses about what happened inside the Riverside Theater after a 52-year-old man collapsed during the intermission of the concert featuring Swedish metal band “Ghost.”

CBS 58 reporter Stephanie Buffamonte was in attendance at the concert when the traumatic events unfolded. Many in the crowd watched as the man received CPR for at least 20 minutes right in front of them.

Staff at the Riverside made an announcement that there had been a “terrible tragedy” and the concert would be cut short. The man was taken out on a stretcher following that. 

The sold out crowd was enjoying the concert until shortly after the start of intermission when the man fell to the ground and staff started shouting for the crowd at the front of the stage to back up.

Katie and Kyle Huglen were standing just feet away from the man who died, “Security guards started telling everyone to move. We had no idea what was happening,” said Katie.

Cellphone video shows the crowd reacting concerned and also confused. The Huglen's say staff were giving them mixed directions.

“The security guards were telling everyone to move one way and then move another way. It was a very stressful situation,” said Kyle.

Staff cleared an area for EMS but witness Emily Pollman said they wouldn't allow a registered nurse in the crowd to come through and give CPR to the man before paramedics arrived.

The Riverside Theater refused to speak with CBS 58 about how the situation was handled but issued a statement saying they are “saddened by the tragedy” and send condolences to the family.

The Huglens say the staff should have been more prepared, “More training in general and more preparation. Maybe this situation could have gone differently,” said Kyle.

Bell Ambulance didn't respond Thursday night but are gearing up for a busy concert season this summer, “You have to make a split second decision on do you render care now, or do you get this patient out of the crowd,” said Jason Flegner of Bell Ambulance.

Flegner went on to say that if you’re within 20 feet of the victim you are probably in the way and it is better off to just evacuate.

For the fans it's a frightening situation they won't forget, ”Pretty traumatic. Just the last thing you expect,” said Katie Huglen.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office tells CBS 58 the victim has been identified as 52-year-old Jeffrey Fortune. He died of probable cardiac arrest and had a history of heart problems.

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