15 Biggest Sports Tragedies

By Amanda Sklarek

15 Biggest Sports Tragedies

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash
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Disaster and death happen every day. Tragedies happen all around us, but when a calamity happens in the world of sports, it hits hard. Here's a solemn look at the 15 biggest tragedies to happen in sports history.

15. Heysel Stadium Disaster

Heysel Stadium
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15. Heysel Stadium Disaster

Heysel Stadium disaster
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Before the start of the 1985 European Cup Final between Juventus of Italy and Liverpool of England, riled fans incited riots and destroyed the stadium. 600 people were injured, 39 were killed and when the madness was all said and done, 14 fans were convicted of manslaughter. Despite the fatal riots, the game started anyways in fear of inducing more violence. Juventus won 1-0.

14. Hillsborough Stadium Disaster

Hillsborough Stadium
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14. Hillsborough Stadium Disaster

Hillsborough Stadium disaster
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The Hillsborough Stadium disaster occurred in 1989 during the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. The limited areas in which fans were segregated caused an overcrowding and resulted in a barrier breaking. The barrier breaking caused fans to fall on top of each other and eventually crush one another. Ninety-six people died and 766 people were injured. Most of the deaths and injures occurred from “crowd crush.”

13. The End of Michael Watson’s Career

Michael Watson
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13. The End of Michael Watson’s Career

Michael Watson boxer
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Michael Watson’s boxing career tragically came to a halt in 1991 during a rematch against Chris Eubank in which Watson received near-fatal injuries. After the incident, Watson spent 40 days in a coma and underwent six different brain surgeries to remove a blood clot. It took Watson several years of rehabilitation, but since the start of his road to recovery, he has regained his hearing and speech and is able to walk again.

12. The Death of Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Dale Earnhardt
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12. The Death of Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Dale Earnhardt Sr
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Dale Earnhardt Sr. won 76 Winston Cup races and 21 Busch Series races in 27 years. The NASCAR Hall of Famer also won 7 NASCAR Winston Cup Championships. Earnhardt’s last race would be in 2001 at the Daytona 500. During the final lap, Earnhardt collided with another driver, sending his car into a wall. Earnhardt died instantly of a basilar skull fracture. After Earnhardt’s untimely passing, there were several safety improvements made in NASCAR.

11. The Death of Roberto Clemente

Roberto Clemente
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11. The Death of Roberto Clemente

Roberto Clemente
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Roberto Clemente was an All-Star professional baseball player for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Clemente’s life was cut short while delivering aid to the city of Managua following a devastating earthquake. Clemente accompanied the relief flight to assure that the aid would reach the victims. Shortly after the plane took off, it crashed into the ocean, killing everyone on board. Clemente’s body was never found.

10. Superga Air Tragedy

Superga disaster
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10. Superga Air Tragedy

Superga tragedy
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In 1949, the accomplished Torino A.C. football team, as well as the club’s officials and three journalists, were traveling by plane to Turin, Italy. The plane flew into a thunderstorm causing poor flight visibility. As the plane descended into Turin, it crashed into the rear wall of the church the Basilica of Superga. No one on board survived.

9. The Death of Ayrton Senna

Ayrton Senna
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9. The Death of Ayrton Senna

Ayrton Senna
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Ayrton Senna is considered to be one of the greatest drivers in the history of Formula One racing. In 1994, Senna entered the San Marino Grand Prix. On Lap 7, Senna hit a high of 190 MPH. Upon entering a turn, Senna’s car appeared to not be steering properly. Senna hit the breaks and got his car to slow down to 135 MPH before hitting an unprotected concrete barrier. Senna sustained a fractured skull, brain injuries and a ruptured temporal artery.

8. Marshall University Tragedy

Marshall University
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8. Marshall University Tragedy

Marshall University plane crash
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In 1970, a jet that was carrying most of the Marshall University football team clipped a stand of trees and went crashing into a hillside. The jet was also carrying members of the coaching staff, team boosters, doctors, and the athletic director. No one on board survived. The team was heading back home to West Virginia after a 17-14 loss in Greenville, North Carolina.

7. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl Tragedy

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
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7. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl Tragedy

Lokomotiv Yarsoslavl plane crash
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The Russian professional ice hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl was on board a plane headed to Minsk, Belarus to kick off the 2011-12 KHL season. The pilot failed to lift the plane from the runway properly. Once the plane became airborne, it hit a beacon tower mast and crashed into a river bank. All but two of the 45 passengers on board died on impact.

6. Munich Olympics Massacre

Munich Olympics
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6. Munich Olympics Massacre

Munich Olympics tragedy
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In 1972, 17 people lost their lives in Munich, West Germany at the hands of the Palestinian terrorist group known as “Black September.” The terrorists killed two members of the Israeli Olympic team and held nine others hostage. During a failed hostage rescue attempt, the terrorists executed the hostages and killed one police officer. Five of the eight terrorists were eventually killed.

5. Korey Stringer's Death

Korey Stringer Vikings
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5. Korey Stringer's Death

Korey Stringer Vikings
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25-year-old offensive lineman Korey Stringer was tragically lost during Minnesota Vikings training camp in 2001. The 6-foot-4, 350-plus pounder collapsed from what was later determined to be heat stroke on the second day of camp. He never regained consciousness and passed away the next day.

4. Derrick Thomas' Death

Derrick Thomas
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4. Derrick Thomas' Death

Derrick Thomas
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Derrick Thomas played his entire 11-year NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs after being drafted fourth overall in the 1989 draft. He is one of the greatest pass rushers the league has ever seen and even set the NFL record for sacks in a game with seven in 1990. Thomas died in 2000 at the age of 33 from a massive blood clot that traveled to his lungs as a result of a car accident weeks earlier.

3. Hendrick Motorsports Crash

hendricks
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3. Hendrick Motorsports Crash

hendricks
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On October 23, 4004, an aircraft owned by Hendrick Motorsports crashed into Stuart, Virginia. All ten people on board were killed, including members of the Hendrick family including John Hendrick, president of Hendrick Motorsports, and former NASCAR driver and owner Ricky Hendrick.

2. Andes Flight Disaster

andes
Wikimedia Commons

2. Andes Flight Disaster

andes
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The Andes flight disaster, also known as the Miracle in the Andes, was a chartered flight carrying 45 people, including a rugby team from Uruguay, that crashed in the Andes in 1972. More than a quarter of the passengers immediately died in the crash. Faced with starvation, the survivors fed on the dead passengers who had been preserved in the snow. 72 days after the crash, 16 passengers were rescued.

1. Sabena Flight 548 Disaster

sabena
Wikimedia Commons

1. Sabena Flight 548 Disaster

sabena
Wikimedia Commons

The United States figure skating team was on its way to the 1961 World Championships in Prague when their aircraft crashed due to mechanical failure. The entire team was killed, including 11 members of the crew as well as family members, coaches and officials, and one person on the ground. 72 lives were lost in total. To mourn the loss of the team, the 1961 World Championships were cancelled.

Amanda Sklarek is a Pittsburgh Penguins/NHL writer for RantSports.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandabukowski, “Like” her on Facebook or add her to your network on Google.

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