13 Investigating the dangers of crushing a crowd

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) – Exactly a week after nine people suffered fatal injuries in a massive crowd influx at a Houston music festival, the same company is hosting a festival here in Las Vegas.

It’s called Day N Vegas at the Las Vegas Festival grounds.

Safety is a priority at all levels. 13 Investigates explores the dynamics of crowd control.

“No one wanted anyone to die at this festival,” Paul Wertheimer said of the Astroworld tragedy in Houston. “But, individually and together, they created an environment in which people could die. And last Friday, they did.”

MORE: Security concerns for big events, festivals after the Astroworld tragedy

Wertheimer has decades of experience with crowd dynamics. He was working for the city of Cincinnati on December 3, 1979, the night of a similar disaster now infamous at a concert of The Who.

“I stayed there that night after the disaster was obvious: 11 dead and the fans were inside,” Wertheimer said.

Wertheimer was appointed leader of the task force to prevent another tragedy, writing a one-of-a-kind report that is still in use to this day. He identified “festival seating” or “general admission” as a primary concern.

“We’ve known since 1979, or since 1980 – the report was released – the dangers of festival seating, standing, arguably the most dangerous crowd setup at concerts and festivals,” Wertheimer said.

In these scenarios, the lack of allocated or designated seating created a free environment for all, Wertheimer said, “because everyone who has seats at the festival, the general admission ticket has the right to be at that perfect spot in front of the lead singer’s microphone. “

Still, he says the crowd influx is completely avoidable, noting National Fire Protection Association safety codes that deal with crowd density and management.

“But the Achilles heel for promoters is that it reduces their profits,” Wertheimer said.

Lower density generally means selling fewer tickets. So who is ultimately responsible for security and what role do artists like Travis Scott play?

“Travis Scott has, at least, a moral responsibility,” argued Wertheimer.

He says artists have great power and influence the crowd, but there is a limit.

“The artist has to make sure he doesn’t get the upper hand, and the artist actually has to realize that he doesn’t have the ultimate power to stop things when they go over”, did he declare.

Despite this power, Wertheimer warned that performers shouldn’t be scapegoats when crowd control fails. Major concert events like EDC, Life is Beautiful, and Burning Man all have event operation plans designed to address crowd safety and risk management.

Wertheimer says the plan he saw for Astroworld was missing.

“We know they didn’t even address the crowd in front of the stage,” he said. “Didn’t even address the safety concerns for festival seats and dense crowds and crowd crushing. Crowd rush, crowd collapse, moshing, stage diving, crowd surfing – not even mentioned in the report. “

Astroworld tragedy: Event security plan did not include protocols for possible crowd increase

He calls it a devastating omission.

“If it is not mentioned in the crowd management plan, then there is no way to deal with an emergency with the crowd because no one knows what to do,” he said. declared.

Ultimately, Wertheimer said, many share responsibility for the Houston tragedy.

“It’s a complete failure,” he said. “Look, the parties responsible for this disaster are the people who planned the event, managed the event, took advantage of the event, and approved the event.”

This group includes public safety agencies in the Houston area that approved the plan of operations.

‘It made me nauseous’: October 1 survivor reacts to Astroworld festival tragedy

We asked to see the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s plan of operations for this weekend’s Day N Vegas festival, but they didn’t share it, citing security concerns.

“They can take action now, if they hadn’t done it before, to change their plan and make absolutely sure that nothing that happened in Houston happens in Las Vegas,” Wertheimer said. .

Las Vegas Police are asking these questions, holding a joint briefing on Tuesday with the Clark County and Las Vegas Fire Departments, Nevada Highway Patrol and even the FBI, to review multiple scenarios and coordinate responses. emergency.

LVMPD provided the following statement:

“The LVMPD has worked closely for months with event planners and other public safety agencies to ensure the safety of those attending Day N Vegas. We want the public to know that we are doing everything we can to ensure their safety so that they can enjoy the festival to the fullest. “

Production company LIVE NATION has announced that Travis Scott will no longer perform at Day N Vegas. They say safety and security are always top priorities in festival planning. LIVE NATION did not respond to a request for details of updated precautions that could be taken.

MORE: Lawsuit Against Travis Scott, Others After Friday’s Deadly ‘Astroworld’ Music Festival

Circus Circus, which operates the Las Vegas Festival Grounds, also did not respond to a request for comment on its role in keeping spectators safe.

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