Summer Festivals: Music in the Sun or an Accident Waiting to Happen?

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Summer Festivals have long been considered a safe and exciting way to spend a summer day – or weekend. However, the history of summer music festivals is checkered, at best. Beginning with the tragedy at Altamont way back in 1969, festival organizers have been on notice that festivals can be extremely dangerous if adequate planning and precautions are not taken. Unfortunately, preventable accidents due to inadequate security, improperly trained security, overcrowding, improperly secured equipment, safety violations and more causes injuries and deaths each and every year.

Stage Collapses Injure and Kill

Stage collapses due to inadequate safety measures or extreme weather events are unfortunately far from uncommon. Unfortunately, it seems that these events are not isolated occurring not only nationwide, but also worldwide. Major stage collapse incidents causing significant injuries include:

  • Ottawa Bluesfest (2011):  Cheap Trick was on the stage and festival goers were expecting an exciting performance. Then the wind unexpectedly whipped-up and storm clouds rolled in. It wasn’t long until one gust caught the stage scaffolding and blew it backward. The stage collapsed resulting in numerous catastrophic injuries to the neck, chest, arms, legs abdomen and back due to flying debris or crushing injuries. It all ended in a veritable stampede as people sought shelter from the storm and shrapnel.
  • Indiana State Fair (2011):  Just before the county band Sugarland took the stage, multiple gusts of 60 mph winds rocked the stage at the Indiana State Fair.  The main stage’s rigging came crashing down resulting in 7 fatalities and 45 people being seriously injured. A later investigation would reveal that this tragedy could have been avoided. The stage did not meet safety standards and the incident was exacerbated by the fair organizer’s failure to develop and implement an emergency response plan.
  • Pukkelpop (2011):  This summer music festival took the lives of three people, seriously injured 11 more and caused some injury to about 60 people. Once again an unexpectedly strong storm passed through the area causing not only the stage to collapse but also the tent and surrounding structures.
  • Brady District Block Party (2011):  Held in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Flaming Lips were slated to perform. Heavy winds and rains pummeled the stage knocking over massive lighting and effects rigs. Luckily in this instance, no injuries occurred because the festival organizers had the foresight to evacuate the area and thus showing that adequate preparation can indeed save lives. The Flaming Lips lost about $800,000 of equipment, but that is a small price to pay compared to the loss of life in these other incidents.

Stage collapse due to unsafe practices or extreme weather events represents a real danger to festival attendees. Hopefully, organizers will take steps to improve safety and make contingency plans for extreme weather events. Otherwise, people will continue to be needlessly injured, maimed and killed at summer music festivals.

Organizer’s Failure to Plan or to Provide Adequate Supervision Can be Deadly

Unfortunately, even when the stage does not collapse, there are numerous other dangerous that can ruin a summer festival. Like with stage collapses, many of these risks are manageable with careful planning. The following festivals illustrate the necessity of logistical planning for large crowds:

  • Roskilde Festival (2000): At the Roskilde Festival, 9 people were killed and 26 were injured due to the size and intensity of the crowd who wear watching the rock band, Pearl Jam. According to investigators, rainfall in the days prior may have made the ground slippery and people to fall down.  Crowd surfers, riding their way to the front stage, would then fall into this “hole”. By the time people realized there was a problem, individuals had died due to suffocation and others had suffered serious injuries.
  • Electric Daisy Carnival (2011):  The aftermath of the Dallas incarnation of this event resulted in the promoters being slapped with seven citations: two for overcrowding, two for failure to maintain an occupant count and three for obstruction of justice. The event caused 1 death and roughly 30 hospitalizations. If the promoters were unable to keep an accurate headcount or prevent occupancy violations, one wonders whether the level of security and supervision that was provided was sufficient.
  • Bonnaroo (2011): Heat-related conditions caused the deaths of two festival attendees; one of them from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Over 1,500 people were treated for heat exhaustion, dehydration and other conditions. Critics question why 10 deaths due to heat have occurred at Bonnaroo over the years while at other festivals that face similar conditions, like Coachella, deaths have been extremely rare.
  • South by Southwest (2014): South by Southwest, or SXSW, is typically considered a hot spot for indie and up-and-coming artists. However, in March 2014 the ebullient mood was forever shattered by the combination of alcohol, a motor vehicle, and an irresponsible festival goer. After being asked to pull over at a sobriety checkpoint, the driver instead sped away, smashing through a police barricade before mowing down numerous people in a crowd. When all was said and done, 4 people were killed by the drunk driver and more than 20 were seriously injured. One wonders if increased security or more secure checkpoints could have prevented this tragedy.

At this point knowing the risks and consequences, it is inexcusable and, at a minimum, negligent for organizers to fail to plan for the logistics of large crowds and summer heat. Organizers must take steps to prevent large crowds from transforming into stampedes, must provide adequate water and shade, and must take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of paying customers.

Have You Been Injured at a Summer Festival or Concert?

If you have suffered a serious or traumatic injury at a summer music festival, you don’t have to go it alone. If the organizers were negligent and failed to inspect the grounds for risks or failed to take adequate precautions to protect festival attendees, you may be able to secure compensation for your injuries. Contact the respected personal injury lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm today. Schedule your no-obligation consultation to determine if our services are a good match for you by calling (215) 246-9000 or contact us online.

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