Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer, and Paul Stanley of KISS perform onstage during the Tribeca Festival screening of "Biography: KISStory" at Battery Park on June 11, 2021 in New York City. A guitar tech for the band recently died of COVID-19, which other roadies are blaming on the band's tour protocols.
KISS perform onstage at Battery Park on June 11, 2021 in New York City.
Getty Images for A&E

KISS Roadies Blame Lax COVID-19 Protocols on the Band’s Tour for Guitar Tech’s Death

Francis Stueber, who had been with the band for two decades, died of the virus in his hotel room just two days after quarantining

On Oct. 17, longtime KISS guitar tech Francis Stueber, who had been with the band for more than 20 years, died of COVID-19 in his hotel room after contracting the virus while on tour with the group. The 53-year-old passed away just two days after being quarantined, and his death has sparked outrage among roadies and other crew members on the band’s tour — some of whom have spoken out about the tour’s lax COVID-19 protocols in a new Rolling Stone report.

Speaking with the publication on the condition of anonymity, several crew members blamed Stueber’s death on the lack of COVID-19 testing on the tour, claiming that people were only tested if they happened to display symptoms of the virus. “Every day during the shows, we weren’t tested. And there are so many unknowns,” one crew member said. “Did we superspread this, did we spread this thing from city to city? It’s horrible that Fran passed, and it’s horrible if this is our protocol just for us to tour. Is this going to be the normal, to stick someone in a hotel. and if somebody dies, ‘Oh, well, off to the next guy?’”

 “I couldn’t believe how unsafe it was, and that we were still going,” another roadie, who said they’d never work for the band again, told the publication. “We’d been frustrated for weeks, and by the time Fran died, I just thought, ‘You have to be fucking kidding me.’”

However, in a statement to Rolling Stone, the band defended their protocol and placed the blame on crew members’ refusal to follow it. (Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley have both spoken out in favor of COVID-19 vaccine mandates and mask requirements.) “We are profoundly heartbroken at the loss of Francis, he was a friend and colleague of 20 years, there is no way to replace him,” the band wrote in their statement. “Millions of people have lost someone special to this horrific virus and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated. Please protect yourself and your loved ones.”

“Our End of the Road World Tour absolutely had Covid safety protocols in place that met, but most often exceeded, federal, state, and local guidelines,” they continued. “But ultimately this is still a global pandemic and there is simply no foolproof way to tour without some element of risk.”

The band also revealed that after the tour ended, they found out that several crew members tried to hide the fact that they were symptomatic instead of getting tested and receiving medical attention, because they didn’t want to wind up quarantined in a hotel in a random city. They also claim that some crew members deceived them by presenting fake vaccination cards.

“While the protocols were in place for the tour, it was impossible to police the crew minute by minute of their lives,” KISS’s statement reads. “If certain crew chose to go out to dinner on a day off, or have beers at a local bar after the show, and did so without a mask or without following protocols, there is little that anyone can do to stop that. Particularly when many of our tour markets did not have any state or local mask mandates in place. We are now aware there were crew members who attempted to conceal signs of illness, and when it was discovered, refused medical attention. … Furthermore, it has recently been brought to our attention that certain crew members may have provided fake vaccination cards which, if true, we find morally reprehensible (as well as illegal), putting the entire tour in harm’s way.”

You can read Rolling Stone‘s complete report on the issue here.

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