On New Year’s Eve, 1984, Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen was in a car accident with his then-girlfriend in the countryside just outside of Sheffield, England, which resulted in the loss of his left arm. The traumatic experience, nearly 40 years earlier, is one Allen says prepared him after being attacked outside his hotel in Fort Lauderdale on Monday (March 13).
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“I immediately just went to that place of just feeling grateful for the fact that I have an amazing wife and an incredible family,” said Allen, 59, in an interview on Good Morning America. “I just started thanking a higher power for the fact that I’m still here.”
After stepping outside to have a cigarette, Allen was attacked in front of the driveway of the Four Seasons Fort Lauderdale when 19-year-old Max Edward Hartley from Ohio ran “full-speed” towards the drummer, striking him and knocking him backward. As a result of Hartley’s attack, Allen fell back and hit his head on the ground.
“I heard a couple of steps and then I just saw this [flash], and the next thing I knew was I was on the ground,” said Allen. “I landed on my backside, hit my head on the pavement.”
Hartley was allegedly hiding behind a pillar outside the hotel prior to the attack.
Allen said he feared being attacked again, so he reached his hand up in the air and said, “I am no threat to you.” He added, “I don’t think he knew who I was, but he must have seen that I wasn’t a threat because, you know, I’ve only got one arm.”
A woman who witnessed the attack ran out of the hotel to help Allen. When she attempted to go back into the hotel for help, Hartley reportedly pulled her back by her hair and also knocked her to the ground.
Hartley was charged with two counts of battery and four counts of criminal mischief, according to a police report, and pleaded not guilty to all charges.
At the time of the attack, the drummer was in town after performing the previous night at the Hard Rock Live at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in nearby Hollywood, Florida, as part of Def Leppard’s co-headlining tour with Mötley Crüe.
Following the incident, Allen said he was taking time to heal from the attack. “We are focusing on healing for everyone involved,” said Allen in a post on social media. “We ask you to join us in our effort to move from confusion and shock to compassion and empathy. We understand this act of violence can be triggering for so many people.”
Def Leppard is currently on tour in Europe and North America through Aug. 18.
“I know that I’m not going to be playing music in a band forever,” said Allen. “But while I am, I plan on making as many people happy as I possibly can. And this is my time. This is my opportunity.”
Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images