Dwight Mack could only pray as he stood by his daughter’s bedside.
To the public, Ericka Mack is the security guard trampled by gate-crashers at the Ultra Music Festival. But this was his baby girl, and she was not responsive hours after she was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Her silence scared him.
Theirs is a family that worships and prays together, devout Jehovah’s Witnesses who walk door to door together to spread their faith. On Saturday night, a day after a frenzied crowd left her with a skull fracture and a broken leg, she did not seem to hear her father’s solemn plea to God for strength.
“As a father, I was devastated, emotionally. We stood by her bedside and tried to get a sense of all this,” he said.
Mack said he has to be strong for his son Dwight. Jr, who stood by his side at Jackson Memorial Hospital, holding his hand and waiting for his sister to say something, anything. His wife Norma, Ericka’s mother, was also working as a security guard for Ultra that night. When she learned it was her daughter who was crushed beneath a chain link fence when dozens of ticketless concert-crashers ran over her, she was inconsolable.
Ericka, her dad said, a former high school basketball player, is starting to heal.
“Day by day she’s making a little progress. She is still suffering. She’s pretty much going day by day,” he said. She has begun to talk a little, he said, but can’t remember anything that happened that night.
The family wants answers. They have hired attorney Eric Isicoff, who said he’s on a mission to find out what went wrong and to hold the right people accountable.
Ultra organizers blamed “unruly gate crashers” in a statement Wednesday for injuring Mack. A spokesman said the festival is undertaking a “comprehensive review of all security procedures.”
Miami’s police chief said earlier this week that officers had warned Ultra, hours before the festival began Friday night at Bayfront Park, to beef up the fencing at the same spot where the 28-year-old guard was later injured, but that the organizers did not follow through. Ultra’s plans filed with the city called for more-secure fencing at that site, but it was never put up.
Festival founder Russell Faibisch said through a spokesman that his main concern was Mack’s well-being and recovery. Faibisch himself declined to speak to the media.
The family’s attorney, who said he plans to file suit in the coming months, added he is disappointed that Ultra seems to be passing off all the blame on the unruly mob.
“There’s a glaring omission in talking about how they’re concerned about Ericka Mack,” he said. “There are known measures that could have been and should have been taken. For Ultra to try to pawn this off on an angry mob of kids, it just doesn’t fly.”
A review of the contract between Bayfront Park Trust and Event Entertainment Group, the company that puts on Ultra, shows an umbrella liability insurance policy of $9 million. According to the contract, Ultra assumes all liability for anything that happens during the festival.
Some city leaders are calling for ending the downtown Miami festival. Mayor Tomás Regalado and Commissioner Marc Sarnoff — whose district encompasses downtown — will push for booting Ultra at the next commission meeting on April 10.
Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa said at a press conference earlier this week that Ultra representatives and the individuals who stormed the fence could face criminal charges of culpable negligence for exposing the security guard to harm.
Legal experts say the outcome of any civil or criminal case against the popular three-day festival would likely favor the injured guard.
“The plaintiff can show that not only should Ultra have been aware, but that they were aware. They were told about this weakness and did nothing. That is going to be significant in a civil or possible criminal case,” said University of Miami law professor Tamara Lave, who has no connection to the case.
Mack’s father said he spends most of his days by his daughter’s bed, remembering the active young lady who loved to spend time with her family, hoping that she will make a full recovery.
His daughter was born and raised in Miami. She attended Horace Mann Middle School and graduated from William H. Tuner Technical Arts High School. A passion for cooking led her to enroll at Johnson and Wales University in North Miami, where she earned an associate’s degree in culinary art.
For nearly four years she worked as prep cook at La Gorce Country Club in Miami Beach. She joined the security firm where her mother works in September, he said.
“As a father, my only response to all of this is, how could something drastic like this happen to my daughter?”