Attendees at the nationwide Falls Music Festival have recounted the “horror” of a mass crowd crush at the Lorne, Victoria, event, as Tasmania police investigate allegations of sexual assault at the festival’s Marion Bay location.
The allegations of mosh pit assault in Marion Bay surfaced on Saturday, hours after more than 60 people were injured and 19 were hospitalised following a stampede at the Lorne location.
The stampede occurred on Friday night as revellers rushed from a performance by Australian act DMA’s in the Grand Theatre to see British band London Grammar perform.
Festival-goer Ethan Devlyn, 21, told The New Daily the crush was “like a horror movie come to life”.
“I couldn’t breathe. There were people on top of me and under me. I honestly did think, ‘this is it. I’m a goner’.
“You also feel awfully helpless to those you’re squashed on top of, just horrible!”
Others involved in the crush recalled people around them urinating in terror, hyperventilating and bleeding.
Thirteen women and six men were taken to hospital with bruising, fractured legs, pelvic fractures and cuts.
Attendee Alex Hannah, 21, said the stampede was exacerbated by the fact that the ground sloped downward towards the tent exit.
Hannah became fearful as people “began falling like dominoes”.
“There were a few people trapped below me. I thought they may have been dead,” Hannah said.
“I know there are a lot of people with physical injuries, but there is a lot of mental trauma, too.”
Blame is being placed on the design of the Grand Theatre, with the small entrance and narrow exit gates creating a bottleneck effect.
Festival organisers widened the gates and removed a large section of the tent for the rest of the festival.
Victorian Creative Industries Minister Martin Foley said on Saturday the stampede was “unacceptable”.
“Worksafe has investigated and worked with Falls management and has recorded that they’ve made some immediate requirements for change to the facility to make sure that there is not a repeat event,” Mr Foley said.
Organisers posted a statement on the Falls Music and Arts Festival Facebook page, which said “the safety and wellbeing of our patrons is of paramount concern to us”.
“Whilst a very distressing situation, we are heartened and thankful for the amazing work of our medical teams and staff who responded with such care and support to those affected and continue to do so for the remaining duration of the festival.
“We would like to thank all staff, the Lorne Hospital and local medical teams for their work.”
Salvation Army volunteers were applauded for their response to the incident, helping to control the crowd comfort traumatised attendees and treat injuries, even using sanitary pads to bandage some wounds.
— Cassie Zervos (@cassiezervos) December 31, 2016
Police investigate mosh pit sexual assault
Meanwhile, Tasmania Police is investigating three complaints of sexual assault at the festival’s Marion Bay location.
Police said two incidents occurred in the mosh pit area of the festival, being held about an hour’s drive from Hobart.
A young girl was assaulted on Thursday night during DJ Hot Dub Time Machine and another during hip-hop artist Illy’s performance.
A third incident in the camping grounds on Thursday night was also reported.
Detectives from Bellerive CIB are investigating.
Inspector Doug Rossiter said the victims received counselling and he urged patrons to stay with their friends.
“The best thing you can do is to stay with your friends at all times and look out for each other,” he said.
“If you become isolated and feel unsafe at any time, go straight to the nearest police officer, security guard and talk to them.”
Police would like to hear from any person who may have witnessed any of the incidents or have any information that might assist the investigation.
Concerned relatives are also being encouraged not to panic due to poor mobile phone reception in both areas, which could be preventing them from contacting loved ones.
Hoping people realise the reception is HORRIBLE at #fallsfestival and if you cannot contact loved ones please don't expect the worst.
— Harriet Carter (@harriet_ewc) December 30, 2016
Anyone with inquiries about the incident or the welfare of specific festival-goers is advised to contact firstname.lastname@example.org
– With ABC