The organisers of Falls Festival have issued a statement defending their “impeccable safety record” and criticising media outlets who reported on the Friday night stampede that saw more than 60 patrons injured.
Survivors of the incident described the horror of being trampled in a crush when the crowd surged out of DMA’s set, and many claimed that they had to rely on fellow patrons to rescue them, thanks to an apparent lack of staff and security.
Two days on, in response to these criticisms, organisers say that they would “like to take this opportunity to clear up some of the misinformation that has been spreading in the media”. Their statement reads:
“Patron safety is tantamount at Falls,we spend a lot of time engaging with local authorities, emergency services, on a local and State level, specialist consultants, local and State [governments] and various other community services to ensure we are offering the safest environment for our patrons. Thanks to the level [of] planning and support from these parties, the Falls Festival in Lorne has had an impeccable safety record the the past 24 years.”
Falls organisers maintain that there were 15 security guards stationed at the Grand Theatre stage on the evening of the crush, and that they “responded with a number of event staff” when a disturbance became apparent.
Concert-goers Ruby Campbell and Sophie Baldock claimed that they had to walk a kilometre before receiving medical attention after being trapped in the stampede, and that when they arrived, they found medical tent struggling to cope.
Falls fest organisers have not responded directly to this criticism, but claimed in their statement that affected patrons had access to medical facilities closer to the scene of the incident, saying:
“A number of years ago a permanent 23m x 12m medical structure was built on the site to make patrons who needed medical attention as comfortable as possible and provide medical staff with a safe, reliable, robust working space … This is located a 100m walk from the Grand Theatre.”
Organisers also said that they had “staff numbers on site” from Ambulance VIC and Event Medical Services Australia to assist those affected, as well as police and fire staff and “teams from the Salvation Army.”
In the wake of the incident, a number of festival-goers and their loved ones took to Falls’ social media channels to criticise organisers for their handling of the situation. Sophie Hadrill wrote:
“All I’ve heard so far is Falls putting this back on the crowd and downplaying what happened … Surprised it didn’t happen earlier.”
Michelle Kavanaugh Cox, a parent whose daughter was caught in the crush and subsequently hospitalised, also lashed out at organisers, saying:
“At no stage have we been contacted by medical personnel or representatives from Falls as claimed above, despite repeated requests via the email address provided to do so. Any response we have received has been standardised and generic.”
In response to this, Falls organisers claimed that they set up a “comprehensive communication strategy” including an email hotline, free phone lines for patrons, and notifications sent via social media and the festival app.
Many who were on site pointed to a lack of exits at the “cramped” Grand Theatre stage, and blamed the crush partly on this; on this score, Falls merely said that they “suspended” programming until “amendments” could be made to the area.
Organisers went on to say that they are “devastated” by the crush and “beyond shattered” at the number of injuries, promising “a full debrief of the incident and an investigation into what the causes.”
They are still attempting to make contact with some injured parties, and have asked those affected to message them via email@example.com or via the official Facebook page.
Earlier this year, musical conglomerate Live Nation purchased a controlling interest in Falls and Splendour In The Grass, but organisers insist that both festivals will maintain their integrity in future years.
Source: Falls Festival / ABC News.
Photo: Falls Festival / Instagram.