THE man behind a huge country music festival held in Fintona over the weekend has pledged to review safety arrangements at the venue after reports of serious crowd congestion.
Andrew Short of AJS Promotions, who organised the three day ‘Jamboree in the Park’ event in the Ecclesville Centre admitted his staff were overwhelmed by the number of people descending on the venue within a short period of time.
The Saturday night event headlined by Derek Ryan and Nathan Carter attracted the largest crowds of the weekend.
A number of people were hospitalised after crowds congested around the main entrance and toilet areas during peak times. The Ambulance Service attended the scene, but there were no reports of any serious injuries.
Despite allegations of overcrowding and allowing between 4,000 and 5,000 people into the venue, Andrew Short affirmed that 3,700 were inside the Ecclesville Centre and blamed the congestion on the majority of concert goers arriving within a short period of time.
“It’s something we have never witnessed before, usually the crowd trickles. But with Derek Ryan and Nathan Carter on the same night, it was going to be a very big night.”
The promoter said 60-70 per-cent of the crowd arrived within a 45 minute period, but claimed the situation was soon resolved by opening another door.
Mr Short stated that police officers at the festival had no major concerns. “Police came in at around 9.30pm and said they were happy and were pulling the police officers out because it was going well. If there had have been any serious incidents, the police would have stopped it.”
However a Loughmacrory man whose 18-year-old girlfriend, Cora Traynor ended up in hospital with leg injuries, branded the organisation of the event “a disgrace”.
Michael Gillen (24) claimed he also pulled a young girl from a crowd who had stopped breathing. He described how a crowd built up around the entrance to the toilet area between 9pm and 9.30pm after doors were closed for a period, sparking a crush when the doors reopened.
“There were people trapped including a wee girl underneath Cora. Luckily enough she has first-aid training and she was able to keep her calm. But she just stopped breathing altogether. I ran over and heard the squealing and crying and I pulled her out.
“There was a lot of screaming and crying and the bouncers just stood and looked. They were absolutely pathetic,” he said.
Another teenager who was taken to the South West Acute Hospital in an ambulance, said she was left traumatised by the experience.
Jessica Kelly (16) from the Omagh area, described seeing other concert goers being hurt. “I saw an older woman basically lying on the ground, she was being trampled over, it was horrible.”
The teenager who was taken to hospital after her friends came to her aid, said she witnessed five ambulances at the scene administering aid to a number of people. Despite concerns that she may have broken bones in her neck, the 16-year-old suffered only internal bruising.
Speaking yesterday ahead of a meeting with the Enniskillen firm charged with overseeing security at the venue, Andrew Short said he was concerned by the reports.
“We have to look at the building to see how we can have a better flow around it instead of just coming in at one point,” he said.
“We were very disappointed with the way this has happened. The night went on and it ended up a fabulous night. At this stage all we are going to hear is the negatives, you very rarely hear the positives.”
Mr Short said the decision by the security staff to stop patrons entering the venue for a period left many ticket holders outside, some for more than an hour.
But the promoter has pledged to offer a refund to those ticket holders who could not access the concert.
“We have tried our very best to put on a top class event and I believe we did do that. The artists we had was the best you would get anywhere and it’s just the circumstances of everybody landing at the one time, we weren’t expecting it.
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