Four dead in Spanish festival tragedy

December 2012

Live events sector


Four young women have been killed at a festival in Madrid on Wednesday night after a crowd surge in a reportedly over-packed venue. The Thriller Music Park event took place at the 12,000 capacity Madrid Arena, though a licence for the show allowed 10,600 tickets to be sold. Promoters insist the venue was not over capacity, and say that the event had actually not quite sold out. Some audience members have disagreed with that claim on the social networks, one estimating up to 20,000 people were in the building at the time, though there is evidence to suggest that the problem wasn’t venue-wide overcrowding, but a bottleneck around one exit from the main arena. Some gig-goers have also claimed not enough exits were open during the event, with some claiming only one was available for much of the night. The event was headlined by DJ Steve Aoki.

Promoters say that they believe the fatal surge was caused when a flare went off within the audience area, though some bystanders have subsequently claimed the flare occurred sometime after the crush began. Emergency staff were called to the scene at about 4am and found five people in distress: two were declared dead at the scene after paramedics attempted resuscitation for about thirty minutes, while a third died after being taken to a local hospital.

Local police are now investigating the tragedy and its causes and investigators will view 1,350 hours of video footage to determine what went wrong. While initial reports focused blame on  flare being set off inside the venue, it is was the alleged that security failed to maintain adequate crowd distribution across the venue’s three floors – as ticketholders could drift between the three floors of the venue meaning that  access corridors were particularly busy, leading to the fatal bottleneck in one of the building’s main access passageways

Local press have now found an official report from 2010 criticising the arena’s security, ventilation, fire-suppression systems, storage of flammable materials and insufficient passageways leading from each level to the exterior of the building, the latter seemingly an important issue in causing the deaths. Meanwhile a police report from as far back as 2006 has surfaced that questioned why the venue was being able to host such major events without a full and proper licence from city authorities.

As details emerged that the fourth victim was seventeen years old, more pressure on the event’s promoters and security operation, as the show was for eighteen years and over.  A fifth victim remains in a critical condition.

The mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella, has now banned “mega-parties” and large-scale concerts from taking place at city-owned venues in the Spanish.

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