List of entertainers who died during a performance

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Through history, many entertainers have died while performing live or while recording a performance.[1] The following list excludes deaths involving stunt persons as they are listed separately.

17th century[edit]

  • 1673: Molière, the French actor and playwright, who suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis, died after being seized by a violent coughing fit while playing the title role in his play Le Malade imaginaire (The Hypochondriac).[2] The superstition that green brings bad luck to actors is said to originate from the colour of the clothing he was wearing at the time of his death.

19th century[edit]

  • 1817: An actor known as Mr. Cummins died on stage while playing the part of Dumont in The Tragedy of Jane Shore by Nicholas Rowe, at the Leeds Theatre in Hunslet. He died of ‘ossification of the heart’ (aortic stenosis) on 20 June having uttered his final words from the play “May such befall me at my latest hour ...”.[3]
  • 1820: Madame Delinsky, the female half of a magic act, was accidentally shot and killed while performing the "bullet catch" trick. One of the six gunmen mistakenly loaded his rifle with a live bullet.
  • 1829: Sam Patch, an American daredevil, died in Rochester, New York, during a jump into the High Falls of the Genesee River. He had successfully leapt into High Falls one week previously.
  • 1840: Magician Arnold Buck was killed while performing the "bullet catch" trick. The volunteer from the audience was given the gun and a bullet to load onstage; the bullet was a blank, but unbeknownst to Buck, the audience member inserted some nails into the gun barrel.
  • 1873: The actress Matilda Pascaly died from injuries suffered on stage while playing the part of an angel in Don Juan de Maraña. Stagehands mishandled her wires and sent her crashing upside down into a wall.[4]
  • 1888: Frederick Federici had a heart attack as he descended through a trap door just after singing his last note as Mephistopheles in Gounod's opera Faust at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne.

20th century[edit]

  • 1911: Sigmund Neuberger, a vaudeville performer known as "The Great Lafayette," died on 9 May in Edinburgh while performing his "Lion's Bride" illusion after a stage lamp sparked a fire that killed Neuberger, his double, the lion, and ten other performers.
  • 1912: Theodore Ronald Brailey, Roger Marie Bricoux, John Frederick Preston Clarke, Wallace Hartley, John Law Hume, Georges Alexandre Krins, Percy Cornelius Taylor, and John Wesley Woodward, the eight onboard musicians hired to entertain on the RMS Titanic. The band reportedly continued playing music until the sinking ship's last moments in an effort to calm the passengers.
  • 1918: Chung Ling Soo, magician (real name: William Ellsworth Robinson), died as a result of a bullet catch illusion going wrong on stage.[5]
  • 1924: Jack Pleasants, music hall entertainer, is said to have dropped dead on stage at age 49 during a pantomime performance.
  • 1927: John "Chuck" O'Connor, performer in vaudeville and father of actor Donald O'Connor, died of a heart attack while dancing onstage in their family act.
  • 1930:
    • Escape artist Genesta drowned during his milk-can escape, a stunt associated with Harry Houdini. Unbeknownst to Genesta, his milk-can had been dropped, damaging the secret escape hatch and rendering it inoperable. His assistants were unaware of this, and freed him too late.[citation needed]
    • Cinematographer Conrad Wells, director Kenneth Hawks, six other crew members and two pilots were killed in a two-plane collision off the Santa Monica coast while filming aerial scenes for the film Such Men Are Dangerous.[6]
  • 1931: Acrobat Lillian Leitzel died after falling from her rigging during a performance in Copenhagen.
  • 1937: Louis Vierne, a French organist and composer, died while performing his 1750th organ recital on 2 June 1937, at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.[7]
  • 1943:
    • Alexander Woollcott suffered a heart attack during a radio show in which he and four other individuals were having a discussion about Hitler. Listeners were oblivious to the fact that anything was out of the ordinary. Several of them reported that Woollcott, known for being strongly opinionated, was unusually quiet.[8]
    • Albert Stoessel was conducting an orchestra for the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York, when he died of a heart attack on 12 May 1943.
  • 1951: Concert pianist Simon Barere died of a cerebral hemorrhage at Carnegie Hall while playing Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor.
  • 1955: Actress Isabel Bonner suffered a heart attack while on stage at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles, during a performance of The Shrike.[9]
  • 1958:
  • 1960:
  • 1961:
  • 1965: Wagnerian bass-baritone Hermann Uhde died on stage of a heart attack during a performance in Copenhagen on 10 October 1965.
  • 1966: Vaudeville doubletalk comedian Al Kelly died immediately following his performance at the Friars Club roast of Joe E. Lewis, after returning to his seat on the dais and during the applause.
  • 1967: Comedian and singer Jodie "Butterbeans" Edwards, the surviving member of the long-running vaudeville duo Butterbeans and Susie, died on 28 October as he walked onstage at the Dorchester Inn, outside Chicago.
  • 1968: Joseph Keilberth, conductor, died in Munich after collapsing while conducting Wagner's Tristan und Isolde in exactly the same place as Felix Mottl had done in 1911.
  • 1969:
    • Pro wrestler Mike DiBiase suffered a heart attack in the ring while wrestling his opponent on 2 July. CPR was unsuccessful, and an autopsy revealed coronary artery disease. DiBiase was the father of wrestling star Ted DiBiase.
    • Country music star Spade Cooley died from a heart attack while backstage during the intermission of a benefit concert in Oakland, California on 23 November. Cooley was serving a life term in prison for beating his wife to death in front of their daughter, and played the show on a weekend furlough. He was scheduled to be paroled three months later, in February 1970.[12]
    • Performer Kenneth Horne, star of the radio comedy show Round the Horne, died of a heart attack while hosting the annual Guild of Television Producers' and Directors' Awards at the Dorchester Hotel in London, moments after the show scriptwriters had received an award and Horne had urged the audience to tune into its next series which had been due to commence shortly.
  • 1970: Actor George Ostroska collapsed from a heart attack at the start of the second act while playing the title role of Macbeth at the Crawford Livingston Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota.
  • 1971:
    • P C Sorcar, an Indian magician, died during a performance at Hokkaidō, Japan. He was 58.
    • David Burns died while performing in 70, Girls, 70 in Philadelphia.[13]
    • Longevity expert Jerome Rodale had been quoted as saying, "I'm going to live to be 100, unless I'm run over by a sugar-crazed taxi driver." Soon after, he was a guest on The Dick Cavett Show. After his interview was done, Pete Hamill was being interviewed by Cavett when Rodale slumped. Hamill, noticing something was wrong, said in a low voice to Cavett, "This looks bad." Rodale had died of a heart attack at age 72. The episode was never aired.
  • 1972:
    • Les Harvey, lead guitarist of the Glasgow rock band Stone the Crows, died after being electrocuted by his microphone while performing at Swansea's Top Rank Ballroom.[1]
    • Jazz musician Lee Morgan was murdered while performing at Slug's Saloon in New York.
    • Luther Lindsay, one of the first black stars in professional wrestling, died of a heart attack at the end of a match. Lindsay had just delivered his winning move, and died while lying on top of his opponent.
  • 1974: Czech actor Jan Libíček died of kidney failure at the age of 43 on the set of the film How to Drown Dr. Mracek, the Lawyer.
  • 1974 American TV news reporter Christine Chubbuck committed suicide on live television. She is the first person to do so.
  • 1975: Predrag Jovičić, vocalist of the Yugoslav rock band San, died from an electric shock during a concert in Čair Hall in Niš.[14]
  • 1976:
  • 1977: Actor Zero Mostel collapsed and died from an aortic aneurysm during the first preview performance of The Merchant, a Broadway-bound adaptation of The Merchant of Venice.
  • 1978:
  • 1980:
    • Jayan, the biggest star in Malayalam cinema, was killed in a helicopter accident while re-filming a stunt for the action movie Kolilakkam. Jayan was hanging onto the helicopter's landing skids when it crashed, and later succumbed to his injuries.
    • Danish actor and comedian Dirch Passer suffered a fatal heart attack backstage immediately prior to going on stage in Tivoli Gardens on 3 September 1980.
  • 1981:
    • East German comedian Rolf Herricht on 23 August 1981 died of a heart attack while acting at Metropol Theater in Berlin
  • 1982:
    • Vic Morrow and two children, My-Ca Dinh Le (age 7), and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (age 6), died in an accident while filming on location for the Twilight Zone: The Movie in Ventura County, California. Morrow, Le, and Chen were filming a scene for the Vietnam sequence in which their characters attempt to escape from a pursuing U.S. Army helicopter out of a deserted Vietnamese village. The helicopter was hovering at about 25 feet above them when pyrotechnic explosions damaged it and caused it to crash on top of them, killing all three instantly.[18]
    • Actor and comedian Joe E. Ross suffered a heart attack and died while performing on stage on the evening of 13 August. His wife reportedly collected just half of Ross' fee because he had failed to do a full show.[19]
  • 1983: Musician Reebop Kwaku Baah died of a cerebral haemorrhage while performing in Sweden.
  • 1984:
    • Actor Jon-Erik Hexum died after shooting himself with a blank pistol. On 12 October 1984, the cast and crew of the TV series Cover Up were filming the seventh episode of the series, "Golden Opportunity", on Stage 17 of the 20th Century Fox lot. One of the scenes filmed that day called for Hexum's character to load blanks into a .44 Magnum handgun. When the scene did not play as the director wanted, there was a delay in filming. Hexum became restless during the delay and began playing around to lighten the mood. He had apparently unloaded all but one blank round when, at 5:15 p.m., he spun the cylinder and, as if playing Russian roulette, put the revolver to his right temple and pulled the trigger. The force of the blank round was sufficient to dislodge fragments of his skull, which acted as projectiles in lieu of a bullet loaded in the cartridge. The skull fragments were propelled into his brain, killing him instantly.
    • Magician and comedian Tommy Cooper suffered a heart attack during a performance on the TV variety show Live From Her Majesty's. Cooper was known for getting his illusions deliberately and comically wrong. After Cooper collapsed, his audience laughed for almost a minute, thinking that his stage character had swooned at the appearance of a pretty magician's assistant (even she thought Cooper was improvising a comic bit.) The TV show cut away to an unscheduled break. Efforts to revive Cooper backstage failed, and he was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
    • Singer Onie Wheeler died of a massive heart attack while performing on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.[20]
  • 1985:
    • Butoh dancer Yoshiyuki Takada was performing The Dance of Birth and Death with a Tokyo artistic troupe, on the side of Seattle's Mutual Life building. His rope broke, and he fell six stories to his death.[21]
    • Italian actor Claudio Cassinelli died on the set of Sergio Martino's Vendetta dal futuro. His helicopter crashed against a bridge, allegedly due to an error of the pilot, while filming an action scene.
  • 1986:
    • Stunt performer Dar Robinson died in a motorcycle accident while on the set of Million Dollar Mystery as he attempted a stunt, but ended up accidentally riding off a cliff to his death.
    • Actress Edith Webster died onstage from a heart attack while performing her death scene in the play "The Drunkard," in a lodge in Baltimore. The role called for her to sing "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone," and then slump to the floor, which she did.[22]
  • 1987:
    • Saxophonist Warne Marsh collapsed at a Los Angeles jazz club while soloing on the standard "Out Of Nowhere".
    • Comedian Dick Shawn died on stage while performing at UC San Diego after suffering a fatal heart attack. He lay motionless on the stage for several minutes, while audience members (thinking it was part of his act) began shouting comments, such as: "Take his wallet" and "How long is this going to go on?". The stage manager came out to check on Shawn several times before realizing it was not part of the show. A doctor was called up from the audience to perform CPR on the comedian until the paramedics arrived. He was later pronounced dead at Scripps Memorial Hospital.[23]
    • British wrestler Mal "King Kong" Kirk died of a pre-existing heart condition after his opponent Big Daddy jumped and landed on him.
  • 1988: Ferial Karim, a Lebanese actress, died on stage during a performance, 4 July.
  • 1990: Escape artist Joseph "Amazing Joe" Burrus died on Halloween when the glass 'coffin' he was attempting to escape from collapsed under the weight of wet cement poured on top of it.
  • 1991: Actor Redd Foxx suffered a fatal heart attack on the set of the CBS sitcom The Royal Family (TV series).[24][25] It was noted that initially cast mates on set thought Foxx was only fooling around after he clutched a chair and fell to the floor, since his character on Sanford and Son often faked heart attacks.[26]
  • 1992:
    • 13 February, Don "Maddog" Wright, jazz clarinetist, died of a heart attack while performing with Greg Brown at The Folkway, a club in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He was 80.
    • 22 February, Polish actor Tadeusz Łomnicki died of a heart attack during one of the last dress rehearsals of Shakespeare's King Lear, in which he was playing the lead role, much awaited by public and critics. The piece was due to be premiered a week later.
    • On 3 May, Indian film actor Alummoodan died of a heart attack while performing at the sets of Adwaitham. He died on the arms of co-star Mohanlal while filming.[27]
    • On 10 May, Jazz/cabaret singer Sylvia Syms died of a heart attack during a set at New York City's Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel.[28]
  • 1993:
    • Brandon Lee, son of martial artist Bruce Lee, died while filming the movie The Crow. A prop gun had been squib loaded, causing the blank cartridge to propel the bullet into Lee and kill him. Contrary to urban legend, the footage of his death was not kept in the movie. Instead, they re-shot the scene using a different actor, whose death in the film was by a throwing knife.
    • French Canadian actor Michel Noël of Quebec died of a heart attack on 22 June 1993 while giving a performance at Mont-Saint-Hilaire. The crowd initially thought it was part of the show and it took about 15 seconds before someone from the first row investigated and asked if there was a doctor in the audience.
    • On 13 December, professional wrestler Larry Cameron died of a heart attack while wrestling a match in Germany. He was 41 years old.
  • 1994:
  • 1995: Beat Farmers singer/drummer/guitarist Country Dick Montana suffered a massive heart attack and died three songs into the band's set at the Long Horn in Whistler, BC, Canada.
  • 1996:
    • Actor Ken Steadman was killed in a dune buggy accident while filming in Victorville, California for the television show Sliders.
    • Singer Tiny Tim suffered a fatal heart attack while turning to leave the stage during a benefit concert in Minneapolis.
    • Motocycle daredevil Butch Laswell died in Mesquite, Nevada, attempting to set a new world record by jumping over a 38-foot-high (12 m) pedestrian bridge. While in the air, Laswell was blown off course by crosswinds; pushing him to the left of the landing ramp. He flatlanded and crashed.
    • Turkish singer Zeki Müren died of a heart attack during a live performance on stage.
    • Opera singer Richard Versalle died on stage at the Metropolitan Opera during the company's première performance of The Makropulos Case when he suffered a heart attack while standing on a sliding ladder attached to a file cabinet. He was stricken after singing the line, "Too bad you can live only so long."
    • Guitarist/singer Johnny "Guitar" Watson collapsed and died onstage during a performance in Yokohoma, Japan. The cause of death was a heart attack.
  • 1997:
    • Dutchman Coen van Vrijberghe de Coningh died of cardiac arrest during a performance of the television series Flodder. He and another actor drove in a Chevrolet. While jumping onto the hood, he fell and died. The audience thought it was part of the show, but the actors were aware of what had happened.
  • 1998:
    • Paolo "Feiez" Panigada, member of the Italian band Elio e le Storie Tese, died of a brain haemorrhage while performing onstage.
    • English reggae performer Judge Dread died from a heart attack as he walked off stage after performing at The Penny Theatre in Canterbury.[29]
  • 1999:
    • Owen Hart, a Canadian-born professional wrestler for WWF, died during Over the Edge, a pay-per-view event, when performing a stunt. It was planned to have Hart come down from the rafters of the Kemper Arena on a safety harness tied to a rope to make his ring entrance. The safety latch was released and Hart dropped 78 feet (24 m), bouncing chest-first off the top rope resulting in a severed aorta, which caused his lungs to fill with blood.[30]
    • Mark Sandman, bassist and lead vocalist for the band Morphine, collapsed on stage at the Giardini del Principe in Palestrina, Latium, Italy (near Rome) while performing with Morphine. He was pronounced dead of a heart attack.[31]
  • 2000:
    • Actor Renato Di Paolo was portraying Judas in a play outside of Rome on the day before Easter. During the hanging scene he accidentally hanged himself.[32]
    • Saudi Arabian singer Talal Maddah collapsed and died suddenly on Al Meftaha Stage (Arabic: مسرح المفتاحة) in front of his fans just after performing the intro to one of his popular oldie songs. The concert was aired live on Saudi national television.[33]

21st century[edit]

  • 2001: Conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli died of a heart attack while conducting Giuseppe Verdi's Aida at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin.
  • 2002: 23–26 October: During the Nord-Ost Siege at Russia's Dubrovka Theater, 17 actors and members of the orchestra were murdered during the initial terrorist raid or in the following days.[34]
  • 2003:
  • 2004:
  • 2005: 3 October: Franco Scoglio, Italian football manager and sport TV commenter, died of a heart attack while on the air during a program on the Genoan private TV station Primocanale, after a heated discussion over the phone with Genoa chairman Enrico Preziosi. He passed out in his seat while Preziosi continued with his call.
  • 2006:
  • 2007: 3 October: M.N. Vijayan, an Indian writer, orator and academic, died of cardiac arrest during a televised interview.
  • 2008:
    • 9 November: Miriam Makeba suffered a heart attack shortly after singing her hit song "Pata Pata" in a concert held in Castel Volturno, near Caserta, Italy.
    • 5 December: Icelandic musician Rúnar Júlíusson suffered a heart attack and died while performing on stage in Keflavík, aged 63
  • 2009: 13 June: Japanese wrestler Mitsuhara Misawa suffered a cervical spine injury while taking a suplex move during a match, causing fatal cardiac arrest.
  • 2010: 24 February: SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was pulled under the water by the orca Tilikum and drowned toward the end of a "Dine with Shamu" show at SeaWorld Orlando.
  • 2011: 3 March: Swedish comedian Lasse Eriksson died during the final number of his show Fyra lyckliga män 2 (Four happy men 2) at Reginateatern in Uppsala, Sweden. He was one of Sweden's first stand-up comedians.
  • 2012: 23 December: American guitarist Mike Scaccia (Rigor Mortis, Ministry, The Revolting Cocks) collapsed on stage during a special Rigor Mortis performance in Fort Worth, Texas. Scaccia was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Cause of death was listed as a heart attack.
  • 2013: 7 July: Funk ostentação singer and rapper MC Daleste was fatally shot in the abdomen during a free performance in Campinas, São Paulo before a crowd of four thousand people.
  • 2015:
    • 29 January: conductor Israel Yinon collapsed and died during a concert in Lucerne, Switzerland in the middle of conducting Strauss' Alpine Symphony.[39]
    • 21 March: Mexican wrestler Perro Aguayo Jr. suffered fatal cardiac arrest caused by cervical spine damage during a match. The severity of Aguayo's condition was not immediately apparent because he fell awkwardly and was draped limply onto the ring ropes, a position that is typically assumed by opponents of Rey Mysterio, another wrestler in the match.
    • 30 October: Four of the five members of the Romanian metal core band Goodbye to Gravity died during the Colectiv nightclub fire. The band's pyrotechnics, consisting of sparkler firework candles, ignited the club's flammable polyurethane acoustic foam, and the fire spread rapidly, killing 62 people in total. Guitarists Mihai Alexandru and Vlad Țelea were pronounced dead on the scene, while drummer Bogdan Enache and bassist Alex Pascu died shortly thereafter in the hospital due to injuries sustained in the fire.
  • 2016:
  • 2017:
    • 3 January: Popular Nepali actor Bishnu Bhakta Phuyal died while acting on stage. He fainted during a performance at the theater in Kathmandu.[41]
    • 18 March: Original Boston drummer Sib Hashian died after collapsing during a performance on the Legends of Rock cruise.[42]
    • ⍌142⍍: Musician Colonel Bruce Hampton died on stage at a concert celebrating his 70th birthday.
    • 19 July: French singer Barbara Weldens collapsed while performing in a church in Gourdon, France, apparently from electrocution.[43]
    • 17 September: Laudir de Oliveira, Brazilian percussionist and former member of the band Chicago, died of a heart attack during a performance in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil[44]
  • 2018: 6 February: Kathakali dancer Madavoor Vasudevan Nair slumped on stage and died during a performance.[45]
  • 2019:
    • 11 April: Comedian Ian Cognito died of a heart attack during a show in Bicester. He is reported to have "sat on a chair and laid back for five minutes," with audience members initially believing it to be part of his routine until the event's compere called an ambulance.[46]
    • ⍌143⍍: Luchador Silver King was wrestling a match in Camden Town, London, England against Juventud Guerrera when he suffered a heart attack[47]
    • 2 September: Joana Sainz Garcia, Spanish singer and dancer of Super Hollywood Orchestra, died in Las Berlanas, Spain when a pyrotechnic was shot in the wrong direction during the on-stage explosion.[48]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "Moliere,: The Imaginary Invalid", NYU Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database, 23 October 2003
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  4. ^ "Giganţii teatrului românesc (I)". Bookblog.ro. 12 March 2008. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  5. ^ "How not to catch a bullet". The Guardian. 2006. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  6. ^ Scott, Tony. The Stars of Hollywood Forever. Tony L. Scott Publishers, 2015. 7th edition, p-123.
  7. ^ Houlihan, Christopher (31 May 2012). "Famous Last Notes: The Epic Death of Louis Vierne". Huffington Post. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  8. ^ "Woollcott Dies After Collapse," Wisconsin State Journal, 24 January 1943, p1
  9. ^ "Actress falls dead during stage play". Miami News. 2 July 1955. Retrieved 3 May 2013.
  10. ^ Kobayashi Koichi, ed., Hundred Years' History of Takarazuka Revue, Hankyu Communications, 2014, pp. 52-53 [小林公一監修『宝塚歌劇100年史 虹の橋 渡り続けて(人物編)』阪急コミュニケーションズ、2014年、52-53頁], ISBN 9784484146010.
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  16. ^ "News in Brief." Times [London, England] 1 Dec.
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  18. ^ Vic Morrow
  19. ^ The Comedians, Nesteroff, Kliph, Grove Press, 2015, pgs. 314-315
  20. ^ "Menu2". 28 October 2009. Archived from the original on 28 October 2009. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  21. ^ "Drama Turns to Tragedy as a Japanese Avant-Garde Dancer Plunges to His Death in Seattle – Vol. 23 No. 14". 30 September 1985.
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  25. ^ Staff report (28 October 1991). Fox felled by a heart attack taping TV show; calls for wife and dies. Jet
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  30. ^ "Biography.com". Biography.com.
  31. ^ "Mark Sandman". bostonphoenix.com.
  32. ^ "WCBS". Archived from the original on 12 May 2008.
  33. ^ "BBC News | MIDDLE EAST | Saudi singer dies".
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  40. ^ Geoff Edgers (16 May 2016). "'An amazing way to go': Jane Little, world's longest serving orchestra musician, collapses and dies performing 'There's No Business Like Show Business'". Washington Post. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  41. ^ "Veteran actor Phuyal collapses on stage, dies". My Republica. 4 January 2017. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
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  44. ^ "Percussionista Laudir de Oliveira morre, aos 77 anos". 17 September 2017.
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  47. ^ "Fallece Silver King en plena lucha por un infarto al miocardio" [SIlver King dies in the middle of a match from a myocardial infarction]. Record (in Spanish). 11 May 2019. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
  48. ^ "Spanish singer Joana Sainz Garcia killed on stage by exploding pyrotechnics".