While authorities have begun multiple investigations into the Dec. 30 stampede at Australia’s multi-day Falls Festival, its promoters intend to conduct their own inquiries.
Nineteen patrons were hospitalised and 60 injured. A Jan. 1 statement from co-promoter Jessica Ducrou emphasised organisers were “completely devastated” and “beyond shattered” by the incident.
“To those that were affected, on behalf of The Falls Festival, we would like to apologise and let you know that we are deeply upset by this incident and your experience,” Ducrou said. “Despite 24 years of successful operation of Falls Lorne, a confluence of events resulted in a serious incident that will require an investigation into the various contributing factors which will take some weeks to determine, but please be assured it is our utmost priority.”
Falls is staged in four states over the New Year extended break – in the seaside resort of Lorne outside Melbourne on a private farm (with a capped daily attendance of 16,500), Marion Bay in Tasmania, Byron Bay in New South Wales, and Fremantle in Western Australia.
WorkSafe Victoria, which oversees occupational safety, blamed bottleneck exits and unstable ground, according to The Age newspaper At 10 p.m., after a set by Sydney trio DMAs, the crowd began moving out of the Grand Theatre Tent on top of a hill to the Valley Stage to catch London Grammar.
Those in front slipped on the gravel floor, leading to others piling on them. Those hospitalised suffered from injuries including leg, rib, hip and pelvic fractures, possible spinal injuries, head and facial injuries as well as cuts and abrasions. More than half were released by the next afternoon.
An Adelaide hotel manager who said he was confined to a wheelchair and could not return to work for some months, said, “There was blood everywhere” and claimed he could hear bones snap. Social media posts criticised the festival for not providing enough exits (there were three exits but most patrons used the one that led directly to the London Grammar show), and for not responding quickly enough to patrons and their relatives.
Ducrou’s statement also aimed to clarify media reports of the festival’s response to the calamity. She pointed out the tent had 15 security guards at the tent as well as members of Ambulance Victoria and Event Medical Services Australia paid for by the festival and who numbered “beyond the resources recommended by the services.”
The rest of the night’s shows at the Grand Theatre Tent were canceled. But after adopting recommendations from WorkSafe, the festival continued the next day. Promoters set up a free landline booth for patrons to call families, as cell phone reception was poor in the area. Six counsellors from the Department of Human Services were brought in for anyone affected by the event.
Aside from WorkSafe Victoria, also conducting inquiries are Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria and the Emergency Management Commissioner. Victoria’s Minister for Creative Industries, Martin Foley, called the stampede “unacceptable.” He added the state government was “reviewing” the role and contribution of festivals in Victoria. Part of this review will examine how festivals work with government agencies to ensure the safety of all festival goers.”
While the various Falls events have long been incident-free, Tasmanian police are also investigating three allegations of sexual assault made at the Marion Bay location.
Two were in the moshpit during sets by DJ Hot Dub Time Machine and hip-hop artist Illy. The third was on the camping ground. “Extra security measures have been put in place for the moshpit area as a result of these incidents,” police said in a statement. The complainants received counselling and support.