Injuries at Arizona concert came from crowd pushing forward

AP News
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Posted: Sep 28, 2015 4:39 PM

PHOENIX (AP) — Nine people who were injured over the weekend at a Tempe music festival were part of a growing crowd that gradually pushed concertgoers against a fence in front of the stage, officials said.

The injuries from the Summer Ends Music Festival at Tempe Beach Park weren't caused by a stampede toward the stage but instead by an accumulation of concertgoers in triple-degree heat who tried to move closer to see a reggae band, authorities said Monday.

The growing pressure Saturday evening created a domino effect that pushed people against a 4-foot-tall barrier in front of the stage. People who were trapped between the fence and the stage panicked and yelled out that they were having trouble breathing.

"It wasn't a rush of the stage," said Paul Nies, assistant chief of the Tempe Fire Medical Rescue Department.

The music stopped for about an hour as firefighters and police officers lifted people out of the crowd and organizers urged people to step back. One hundred additional firefighters were called to help. Lights were turned on, and the crowd calmed down.

Of the nine people hurt in the pileup, one suffered a life-threatening head injury. The conditions of the remaining eight were unknown.

A few other people were brought to a hospital, including someone who suffered a life-threatening drug overdose, but those medical problems surfaced before the crowd started pushing forward.

An additional 300 people were examined by emergency workers for heat exposure, dehydration and other issues Saturday. They didn't need to be brought to the hospital and were deemed fine after they received water and cooled off. Some of them sought help before the crowd started to push forward.

Tempe police spokesman Michael Pooley said the problems that surfaced at the festival weren't the result of violence. No arrests were made in the pileup.

The final day of the four-day festival went much more smoothly Sunday.

Additional firefighters were called in, and the crowd was easier to manage because it was significantly smaller than the day before. More water and misting stations were brought in and canopies were hung to provide the crowd with shade from the sun.

City spokeswoman Nikki Ripley said it's likely that more water, mister stations and shades will become standard features of such events in the future.

A message left for a concert organizer Monday wasn't immediately returned.