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  May 31, 1999

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Owen Hart mourned

By CAROL HARRINGTON -- Canadian Press

CALGARY -- Three buses, sporting signs reading Owen You Will Always Be In Our Hearts, carried wrestling stars to Owen Hart's funeral this morning.

Masses of flowers ringed the semicircular driveway in front of the Park Memorial Chapel. Light showers fell on the hushed crowd, while music played over loudspeakers.

Barricades held back about a thousand people gathered to pay their respects to Hart.

Hart, 34, a.k.a. The Blue Blazer, plunged nine storeys onto a wrestling ring during a stunt last week in Kansas City, Mo. The husband and father of two young children was instantly killed.

Nine police officers on motorcycles and one on bicycle escorted the Hart family, who arrived in several cars.

Bonnie Carpenter, 16, and a few of her friends skipped school for the funeral.

"We lost a great man -- he was a great role model for me and a great Canadian who spoke his mind," she said.

Joe Friars, 36, spent all night driving from Moose Jaw, Sask., to make it this morning.

"Owen the person was a class act, pure and simple. Never cared for him as a wrestler."

Piero Perrotta, 21, has watched wrestling since he was six.

"I think they've gone too far. It has progressed from a sport to gimmick entertainment."

He called Hart's death a tragedy.

"I think a lot of people should pay respects to the guy."

Hulk Hogan arrived in a white limousine. Road Dogg, Gorilla Monsoon, Paul Bearer, Sgt. Slaughter, and Stone Cold Steve Austin were some of the wrestlers who came on the buses.

Alberta Premier Ralph Klein and his wife Colleen were invited to the funeral, as was country music singer Colin Raye.

The open-casket service was invitation-only because the chapel seats 300 people.

The six remaining Hart brothers -- Keith, Ross, Wayne, Bruce, Smith and Bret (Hitman) -- were to be pallbearers.

At five foot 10 and 227 pounds, Hart started his professional wrestling career in 1989 with the World Wrestling Federation. He was a four-time tag-team champion, two-time intercontinental champion and a European champion.

Hart's father, Stu, was one of Canada's most influential wrestling icons. He started as a wrestler and later promoted the sport by packing small-town prairie arenas with tough, spirited crowds.

Police believe Hart's fatal free-fall was an accident.

Most of the investigation is done. Kansas City police say Hart likely inadvertently unhooked a harness attached to a cable as he was being lowered from the rafters of the Kemper Arena.

The harness is being tested to find out how much force is necessary to activate its quick release and to determine its maximum weight capacity, said Sgt. Floyd Mitchell.

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