American music festivals are a multimillion dollar business, but this recent series of arrests, injuries and fatalities at festivals nationwide has heightened safety concerns for some of the cities involved. Miami, plagued by the mysterious injuries at its annual electronic Ultra Music Festival, wants to push the weekend-long festival out of the city.
Officials in Austin, Texas, passed a resolution last week directing the city to evaluate the tragic events that hit last month’s South by Southwest festival, among other things.
Miami’s Ultra Music Festival was marred Friday when a mob trampled 28-year-old security guard Erica Mack. The crowd had jumped a security fence to get inside the fest without tickets, according to local news. Mack was hospitalized and remained in critical condition Sunday with a brain hemorrhage and broken leg. She was breathing on her own.
Bystander Ivette Lozano told Miami New Times:
“I was horrified. I honestly thought she was dead. She was so limp, her body was so twisted in different areas. I thought she was dead.”
A day later, Adonis Escoto, 21, who had been attending the event, reportedly felt dizzy and went to sober up in a friend’s car. He was later found dead, Miami New Times reported.
The trampling incident in combination with multiple arrests and drug overdoses, is enough to call it quits, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado told CBS:
“What happened this weekend is an event that could have been avoided. The organizers of Ultra did not follow the police directive to reinforce the fence, even though they knew that this year, and the year before, some kids have tried to overrun the fences. In the next weeks we are going to have a discussion on the city commission level to deny the permits for next year for the event here in the city of Miami.”
But Miami isn’t the only city with concerns.
The Austin City Council last week asked its city manager to conduct a full post-event evaluation of SXSW. However, Austin Council Member Mike Martinez said:
“It was a difficult SXSW, but it’s not related just to SXSW. Austin has truly become an international destination for many folks at many different times of the year.”
His statement was referring to last month’s crash that left four people dead, Austin Chronicle reported.
On Thursday, police said 18-year-old DeAndre “Dre” Tatum was the fourth person to die from injuries sustained after a suspected drunk driver crashed through a barrier set up for the festival and plowed into a crowd on March 13. He was the last of the victims who had remained in critical condition at University Medical Center Brackenridge.
Jamie West, 27, and Steven Craenmehr, 35, were killed at the scene last month. And 26-year-old Sandy Le died of her injuries on March 17. More than 20 others were injured.
The driver, 21-year-old Rashad Owens, is charged with capital murder and aggravated assault with a motor vehicle, and prosecutors are expected to seek additional charges against him from a grand jury, The Associated Press reported. Owens is accused of driving drunk and fleeing from police, and then intentionally steering into the crowd and accelerating.
Such troubles are not new to music festivals. In 2010, Los Angeles officials forced Insomniac Events’ Electric Daisy Carnival to move to Las Vegas after a 15-year-old girl overdosed on MDMA, a stimulant also known as “Molly.” And last year, New York City canceled its multiday electronic music festival, Electric Zoo, the last day after two concert-goers died after using MDMA. Also last year, a 23-year-old at Ultra went into a coma and nearly died after someone gave him water spiked with anti-freeze, according to news reports.
Given the history and recent series of events, Miami officials said they have had enough. Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff told NBC:
“This is not a business that serves the community well. … It is time for Ultra to go away. We have always talked about people getting trampled and now it happened.”