The deaths of two paradegoers at this year’s Mardi Gras in New Orleans cast a pall over the raucous festivities and spurred the city to demand an 11th-hour change to tandem floats — multiple parade floats pulled by a single tractor.
Each float must be driven by its own tractor for the remainder of the 2020 Carnival season, officials announced after a man, whose name has not been released by police, was struck and killed by a tandem float Saturday night.
The news of his death came days after Geraldine Carmouche, 58, was crushed by a tandem float. The New Orleans resident was trying to cross to the other side of the parade on Wednesday when she tripped over the hitch connecting two floats, witnesses told a local news station.
The all-female Mystic Krewe of Nyx, one of several social clubs that lead processions with elaborate floats during the week, was passing Carmouche when she was struck. Accounts differ on whether Carmouche was trying to cross to see her cousin, who is a part of the krewe, or pick up beads from the ground.
Both deaths occurred amid the festivities and shocked witnesses. The parades on both nights were canceled after the deaths.
Local news reporter Jonah M. Gilmore, who was at the scene of Saturday’s death, tweeted a video of the flashing, gaudy float surrounded by first responders and a concerned crowd. Sirens echoed in the distance.
“I can’t wrap my head around witnessing this. Like man, the screams, seeing CPR performed on his body and seeing them finally drape that sheet,” Gilmore tweeted. “I never imagined I would witness something so horrific.”
In a tweet late Saturday, Mayor LaToya Cantrell called the deaths at the height of Carnival celebrations “an unimaginable burden to bear” for the city.
“While we must wait for the results of the investigation, we both mourn the loss of life during what is supposed to be our time to celebrate our life and culture here, and continue to be mindful of all safety practices during the Carnival season,” Cantrell said in a statement. “Please exercise caution during parades and elsewhere on the streets."
Cantrell said the city would continue enforcing boundaries where crowds can stand.
The float that killed the man during the Endymion parade on Saturday was the same one that killed a person in 2008, the last such incident involving a tandem float. A rider was getting off a three-part float when it lurched forward and struck him, the Associated Press reported.
The most recent fatality related to a single float was in 2009, when a 23-year-old rider fell from a float and was run over by it in a suburb of Lafayette, La.
At last year’s Mardi Gras, a car hit nine people and killed two bicyclists near the parade route.
The Krewe of Bacchus, which is one of the largest to take part in Mardi Gras, expressed its condolences to the family of the man via a statement to The Washington Post by Clark Brennan, the krewe’s captain. Kern Studios, the production company that makes the krewe’s floats, will modify the design to comply with the tandem float ban, Brennan said.
“The Krewe of Bacchus will roll as usual,” he said.
Brennan didn’t immediately answer how the floats would be changed, but the captain of another krewe, Thoth, told the Advocate that he intends to hire more tractors.
Thoth has 40 floats, and 14 of those are tandem floats.
“We are gonna roll completely,” Thoth captain Penny Larsen told the newspaper.
A member of the Krewe of Bacchus told The Post on Sunday morning that it was in “full mode” to “make it happen.”
Parades in New Orleans are scheduled to continue until Fat Tuesday, which is the traditional culmination of the annual celebration.