Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Expert: Travis Scott’s Astroworld tragedy is preventable

When concert safety consultant Paul Wertheimer first saw a video from Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival in Houston, where at least eight people were killed in a surge on Scott’s set on Friday, his conclusion was based on years of experience.

“It could have been prevented. The crowd became too dense and was not dealt with properly, ”he said. “The fans were victims of an environment in which they could not control.”

Wertheimer has been in charge of concert safety since 1979, when he was an investigator at the scene on the night that The Who trampled 11 people to death at a concert in Cincinnati. He drew up a post-concert account of the setbacks, including festival placement, that led to deaths, and over the next four decades advocated crowd safety through his company, Crowd Management Strategies.

In 2000 at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark, when nine people were trampled to death at a Pearl Jam concert, Wertheimer consulted with the Danish government about preventive solutions. He testified in civil suits against concert organizers and security companies. Over the decades, Wertheimer came to an unfortunate conclusion.

“Life is cheap. Young people are still in extreme danger, ”he said. The main reason is that “the people who organize and approve these events are not criminally liable for gross negligence. And as long as the promoters, artists, security guards, facilities, operators and city officials who approved these plans are not criminally liable, this will continue. ”

The tragedies The Who, Pearl Jam and Travis Scott all share a similarity: the so-called festival seating. A first-come, first-served approach to ticketing, it replaces reserved seats or any seats in general in favor of general admission of tickets shoulder to shoulder. Those who have been to the festival over the past three decades, be it Coachella, Stagecoach, Bonnaroo or Woodstock ’99, have taken part in the festival seating arrangements. Festival seats were used at the legendary 60s concerts Woodstock and Altamont, but even in the early 1970s their use was rare enough to merit mention in reviews.

Seats at the festival offer fans who want to line up early the opportunity to take in closer views, as well as a place to dance or, at a Travis Scott concert, for a mosh. For promoters like Live Nation Astroworld, listing at the festival means more tickets sold. Wertheimer said the seat can take up 6 square feet of space; At a crowded event like Astroworld, there is only 2 square feet of space per person.

Since 1979, crowd control measures have improved. The Goldenvoice Coachella, held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, divides the main stage of the stage into gratings separated by heavy iron barriers and channels formed to prevent large-scale mosques or billowing crowds from escaping. control. This approach also allows the security system to more easily access problem areas.

Wertheimer said barriers, which he describes as “like a reef that you put in the ocean to break waves,” may be effective, but not always. He explains that the Roskilde festival used barriers to disperse the crowd. “If you overcrowd, people can get crushed between them. It doesn’t necessarily work if you don’t take other precautions. “

He added: “Travis Scott was known to have chaotic concerts so it probably didn’t work with him. If it’s Pink Floyd, it will work. “

Travis Scott performs at the Astroworld Festival in Houston on Friday.

(Amy Harris / Invision / Associated Press) #

In most cases, Wertheimer said, the promoter is responsible for keeping the crowd safe, noting that on high-profile shows such as Scott’s, guards usually maintain their presence not only around the perimeter, but also in the crowd itself. But Wertheimer said some large security firms are instructing their personnel to avoid dangerous situations. “Their manuals say,“ Don’t interfere. You can get hurt, and then we have a working computer. Or contact your supervisor. ” So people are dying, and you are trying to contact your leader. “

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One Astroworld attendee highlighted the lack of security personnel. “I was at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, nothing like that happened. There should be a lot of security, just to be on the safe side, ”Julian Ponce, 21, told The Times. A video filmed earlier that day showed an influx of fans breaking through the VIP gate, but was stopped by mounted officers.

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner admitted the earlier violation during Saturday’s press conference: “This is what we got under control,” he said.

“There are many questions that still need to be answered,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said, saying that 528 police officers were assigned to the concert, “plus 755 security guards provided by Live Nation.”

Lina Hidalgo, executive director of Harris County, surrounding Houston, noted that since breaking the barricade in 2019 at the last Astroworld event, more than 150 employees have increased the security of the festival.

“It doesn’t matter how many police and security personnel there are if they are not in the right place and trained in crowd control,” Wertheimer said of the numbers. “None of these people were in the crowd. There were not enough of them at the front barriers. ” He added that more often than not, police officers are not assigned to control the riots anyway.

Live Nation concert promoter issued a statement saying, “Heartbroken for those who lost and suffered at Astroworld last night. We will continue to work to provide the maximum possible information and assistance to local authorities in the investigation of the situation. “

Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said the concert was inspected in advance, including access to entrances and exits. “We are studying what caused the crowd to splash,” Peña said. “The problem was keeping the crowd on stage.”

Wertheimer said he has a specific problem with what Peña said during a press conference on Saturday morning that “the crowd started to squeeze towards the front of the stage and that caused some panic and that caused some injuries.”

“This is completely wrong,” said Wertheimer. “When the Houston fire chief says people panicked, it immediately tells me that he has never been in a crowd. People didn’t panic. They tried to save their lives and the lives of those around them. “

“There was no air flow. It was like a primal instinct: I have to leave, ”Astroworld participant Gerardo Abad Garcia, 25, told The Times.

Whoever is to blame is likely to follow suit. After the fatal Who concert, the families of the victims sued not only the band, but also the concert venue, its directors, the city of Cincinnati, and the concert promotion company.

“Sixteen-year-old Susie or 18-year-old Johnny are not event organizers, firefighters or security guards,” concluded Wertheimer. “They have the right to assume that someone is concerned about their safety, but as with concerts and festivals, too often they have no protection – and they are the last to know.”

Nation World News Desk
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