Vivid Staff Not Prepared For Patron Drowning

Sydney’s Vivid light, music and ideas festival had no emergency plan and staff had never practised for a drowning, an inquest into the death of a patron found.

Photo: 59 Productions

Brendan Hickey, who was visiting from Ireland, was heavily intoxicated when he fell into Cockle Bay on May 23, 2014, the Glebe Coroner’s Court heard. According to various media reports including ABC Radio, it also heard that the 34-year-old had been drinking for four hours before heading to the festival’s opening event with his girlfriend Julia Szymanska and two friends.

He toppled in at 11 p.m. His two friends dived in to find him but were unsuccessful. Hickey could not swim and was afraid of the water. Michael Prescott, events manager on the night, told the inquiry that drowning had not been specifically considered as part of a risk assessment procedure.

As a result, festival staff had not been trained for such an emergency. Asked why he did not stop the show when the alarm raised, Prescott replied he thought it would be easier to search when everyone was in place rather than moving around. The inquest also uncovered that a decision was made not to erect safety rails and fencing at the site because these would obstruct the view of the crowd.