Ultra security guard remains hospitalized after being trampled by gate crashers
03/29/2014 10:53 AM
09/12/2014 11:53 AM
A security guard who was seriously injured when she was trampled by people trying to hop the fence into Ultra Music Festival Friday night was still hospitalized but breathing on her own Sunday, said Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, who planned to use the incident as leverage to block the return of the festival to Miami.
Regalado said Erica Mack, 28, the injured Contemporary Services Corporation security guard, still had a “long road ahead of her.” She suffered severe brain hemorrhaging when she was trampled by a mob of people who did not have tickets to the festival and stormed a weak spot in the fencing.
“She is disoriented and confused and nobody knows how this will affect her future,” he said. Jackson Memorial Hospital did not release any information about the patient; Regalado said he got an update from Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa.
Devan Schulz, the security company’s vice president of marketing, said in a statement that they were “deeply saddened by the tragic events that occurred this weekend at Ultra Music Festival. We will continue to keep Erica Mack and her loved ones in our thoughts and prayers as we closely monitor her condition.” Organizers of the festival said they shared Contemporary’s sentiments and hope “for a swift and full recovery.”
In their own statement, the organizers added that they “prohibit any form of unlawful entry in to the event grounds. Preliminary investigations show that the incident was caused by individuals not in possession of event tickets and who were determined to gain unauthorized entry.
“Every year the event organizers work collaboratively with police and other municipal partners along with the organizers’ independent security partners to ensure the safety of all patrons, crew and working personnel.”
As festival-goers flocked to Bayfront Park Sunday for the third and final day of the festival, Regalado and other city leaders said they would see if a problem with fencing that led to the guard being critically injured constituted a breach of contract that could help them push the long-running show out of Miami.
“Our mission is to safeguard the lives of the people,” Regalado said.
Meanwhile, police reported an increase in arrests: 33 on Saturday, up 10 from Friday. There were 55 rescue runs.
Just hours before the Friday night stampede, Miami police had inspected the perimeter of the event at Bayfront Park and called for additional fencing at the spot where the guard was later injured. But no additional fencing was added.
The three-day electronic music event, which is expected to top 160,000 revelers, is now in its 16th-year and amid a boom in the popularity of electronic music, Ultra has been criticized in the past for rowdiness, illegal drug use and an increase in traffic to downtown.
Regalado said Ultra organizers “acted irresponsibly” by failing to properly secure the venue.
“I think we should not have Ultra next year here,” Regalado told the Miami Herald on Saturday. “This incident should never have happened.”
Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff agreed, saying he has long complained about rampant drug use at the event — last year, a young man died of a drug overdose — and the possibility of trampling.
“I feel horrible for her,” Sarnoff said of the injured guard. “We knew better and we should have done better for her.”
The tragic episode took place about 8 p.m. Friday at a section of the fence at Southeast First Street and Biscayne Boulevard, near an area used to store heavy equipment and supplies for the festival.
The mob storming the fence did not have tickets, which cost about $400 for general admission. The guard had been posted to the fence and may have been trying to hold the unruly crowd back when she was overrun, said Miami Fire-Rescue spokesman Ignatius Carroll.
Mack also suffered a broken leg and was seen with blood coming out of her ears as paramedics treated her at the scene.
Security along the perimeter has been a perennial concern at the event, which opened its gates Friday to the public at about 4 p.m.. According to law enforcement sources, two hours before the gates opened, police broadcast on the radio that additional fencing was needed at the same spot where the guard was ultimately trampled.
None was put up.
The breach happened at a spot of chain-link fences at Southeast First Street and Biscayne Boulevard. At the time, the zone did not feature sturdier, unclimbable portable fencing in use in other areas around the festival.
Miami’s homicide unit, which investigates all non-fatal attacks and deaths, is now looking for witnesses to the incident, said Miami police spokesman Delrish Moss. No one has been charged in connection to Mack’s trampling.
The event brings in millions in tourist revenue and helps pay for the Bayfront Park Trust, which maintained the venue.
The president of Miami’s police union, Javier Ortiz, said he had complained to the city about a shortage of police officers at Ultra. Festival organizers pay the trust, which in turn supplies fencing, security guards and uniformed police officers.
“Civilians do not have the training, experience or authority to handle, for the most part, a crowd of intoxicated people who have zero regard for human life,” Ortiz said. “The poor woman who was injured was put into a dangerous position, left to fend for herself against an overwhelming crush of people.”
On Friday night and early Saturday, police arrested 22 people. Of those, 15 people were arrested on felony charges Friday, according to Miami Police. Six more people were arrested on misdemeanor charges, while one more person was arrested for a traffic violation.
The police department did not detail the exact charges for those people arrested.
Last year, Miami police arrested 167 people during the festival, mostly for drugs and trying to enter the event without paying.
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