Panicked fans stampeded their way into a rock concert by The Who tonight, and Fire Chief Burt Lugananni said at least 11 people were killed in the crush.
At least eight persons suffered serious injuries, officials said, and many other sustained minor injuries.
Ray Schwertman, a 49-year-old usher at the Riverfront Coliseum, said the crowd surged into the 17,000-seat arena just before the gates were to open at 7 p.m.
"First, they threw a bottle through a window in the door. Then they pushed through the hole, making it bigger. Three of four of us tried to hold them back, but it was no use.
"We couldn't hold them back. . . . They carried in one boy and laid him on a table and he died. Others were laying out on the plaza," Schwertman said.
"I've never seen anything like it," Lugananni said. "I can't even tell you what killed them."
Jeff Manchester, 22, said the crowd started gathering about 1:30 p.m. He said there was a mad rush when the doors finally opened for general admission tickets.
"I was grabbing for hair. I was grabbing for bodies.I was grabbing for my life," he said. "I knew some of the people under me were dying, but I could not get up."
The concert, which was sold out, went on as scheduled after the victims were taken away.
Concertgoer Michael Jordan, 17 said: "I was in the middle. It was crazy. You had to fight to save your life."
And 15-year-old Suzanne Sudrack said: "You could see people getting hurt. People were flailing elbows and smashing noses. You could see people going down."
A paramedic, who asked not to be identified, said: "We have all sorts of life-savig devices. We have drugs. We have highly trained people, and none of it did a bit of good. They just died. We couldn't save a one of them."
Cincinnati Public Safety director Richard Castelini said the victims apparently were trampled or suffocated. He said the rush at the door occurred because some seats for the concert were reserved while other were available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Jim Holmstrom, 28, was standing in front of the crowd with his brother, Dave, 22.
"I thought I was dead," he said. "I can't stop shaking. I think my brother is dead. He was next to me and went down in the rush. I don't know how I got out. Somebody was on top of me. I couldn't breathe."
Cincinnati Mayor J. Kenneth Blackwell, who was on the scene, said the major problem was the nonreserved seating arrangement and that many of those wanting to see the concert had been there for several hours.
"A lot of young people apparently had been out there a long time before the doors opened," he said. "They were cold. Some were drinking alcohol. Some were smoking marijuana, and when the doors opened, all sense of rationality left the group."