Hail-injured Red Rocks spectators go wild at Denver-owned venue

Large hailstones fell, injuring dozens of fans at a Louis Tomlinson show at Red Rocks on June 21, 2023. (Photo by Nikolai Puc’/Special to The Denver Post)

Spectators continue to go wild at the Denver-owned Red Rocks Amphitheater following Wednesday night’s severe hailstorm, with at least one attendee being treated for a concussion in the emergency room. a hospital accusing the city of criminal negligence.

Kate Gould, 44, a former emergency medical technician at the stadium, is said to have put financial interests ahead of safety when they allowed around 6,000 ticket holders to return to their seats after a delay due to lightning. The storm that blanketed the amphitheater in golf ball-sized hail injured nearly 100 people.

“It was completely traumatic, horrific,” Gould said. “They need to have better protocols. They could have told us earlier. They should never have let us in.

Criminal negligence is justified, she said, “based on the fact that they knew there was a storm with potential for damage. The weather service knew. Red Rocks officials should have been aware of this as well.

Caitlyn Bedenbender, 21, a Red Rocks regular who also attended the Louis Tomlinson concert on Wednesday night, said she felt ‘they only care about the money and the show goes on. it happens – and it’s awful because people are badly hurt because of it. ”

“People online are talking about the incident and the majority of the comments I see in response are calling out everyone who was a victim of this storm stupid for staying, saying this weather is normal here and we should all have saw it coming,” Bedenbender said. “My only response to those voices is that if I, a concertgoer, should have seen it coming, Red Rocks should have seen it coming long before me.”

On Friday, Denver officials responsible for city-owned sites were silent and unresponsive to questions. On Thursday, officials said city officials were reviewing what happened Wednesday night and what could be done in Red Rocks, but possible exposure to storms is “the nature of outdoor events.”

Brian Kitts, a spokesperson for Denver Arts & Venues, called the hailstorm a “once in a lifetime” event and said venue managers rely on a contractor to tell them when the weather is too dangerous. for the concerts to continue.

“It’s a ‘damn if you do, damn if you don’t’ thing with one of these weather situations,” he said. “Our response was immediate, as soon as they said it was serious… Site managers are not meteorologists. We rely on that kind of advice.

In this image provided by West Metro Fire, hail blankets a walkway at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colo., near Denver, Wednesday, June 21, 2023. Firefighters say seven people were taken to hospitals and up 90 people were treated for injuries after hail struck spectators at the outdoor venue. None of those hospitalized suffered life-threatening injuries, West Metro Fire Rescue said. Injuries included cuts and broken bones, he added. (West Metro Fire via AP)

“Blood runs down his face”

Gould recounted the events that led her and her 18-year-old daughter to return to the venue to hear the former One Direction member sing after that initial 8:07 p.m. delay due to lightning. It didn’t feel right to me, to still see dark clouds, to hear thunder, she said.

She felt apprehensive when Red Rocks officials at 8:35 p.m. announced a green light, Gould said – but trusted them.

“They told us to go back. As we were going I was like, ‘What the hell, the sky was black, why are we being sent back?’ Then I was like, ‘Maybe the storm has passed and that’s why.’ I was like, ‘They have to know what they’re doing,’ she said in an interview Friday morning.

She sent photos of the sky to her husband, Stephen Farrell, 52, back at their home in Conifer, as he checked the latest severe storm reports from the National Weather Service and prepared to text and advise to go out.

At around 9:30 p.m., Red Rocks officials posted a red evacuation warning on a display screen advising spectators to immediately return to their vehicles.

She and Faith fled. It was pandemonium, white hail pounding like marbles and golf balls – “the hail equivalent of a tsunami”, she said – with seemingly no visibility and no shelter.

“I was yelling at him to get down. There are already people crammed into a big pile…I jumped on her,” Gould said. It was then that she suffered the concussion. “

The concert has been officially postponed to 10:25 p.m.

When they finally pulled into a parking lot, the boyfriend of one of Faith’s friends pulled her into his vehicle and they headed to the emergency room at St. Anthony’s Hospital. In the ER, she saw “at least 20” other wet people from Red Rocks, she said.

“There was a girl, I thought it was bad hair dye, it was blood. Her whole scalp was bloody. She had blood running down her face. There were people with bruises all over their arms. There were people crying, very upset. Everyone was soaked. They looked like cold, wet, scared injured rats,” Gould said.

On Friday, she and her husband were trying to figure out how to file a criminal negligence lawsuit that they say could turn into a class action lawsuit. But a Denver Police Department dispatcher said she couldn’t take a police report, Farrell said.

Another call, to the city attorney’s office, led to a man “trying to talk me out of it” by invoking “sovereign immunity” which can protect governments from liability when things go wrong.

“Denver put money before human beings. It’s about humanity,” Farrell said. “It was about money… My goal is to end up in court. responsibility.

In 2014, a lawsuit led to a $39 million settlement with concert promoter Live Nation and country duo Sugarland after a powerful storm hit the Indiana State Fair, with gusts of wind at speeds ranging from up to 70 mph, resulting in a stage collapse that killed seven people. and injured dozens more.

An ambulance is seen at the Red Rocks Amphitheater Wednesday, June 21, 2023, after a hailstorm injured 80-90 people. Seven spectators were hospitalized after the Louis Tomlinson concert was interrupted by the torrential storm producing hail. (Photo courtesy of West Metro Fire)

“I felt like I was in a war zone”

Bedenbender said she often enjoyed Red Rocks shows in the pouring rain and bad weather.

“That’s why all this time I thought if we were in danger of getting hurt they would let us know and tell us to get out of there,” she said. “I thought, worst case scenario, we were going to get really wet when we left.”

Bedenbender took her three teenage cousins ​​for their first Red Rocks experience on Wednesday night and said she felt awful that they left traumatized after being battered by a hailstorm whose location did not properly warned the spectators.

The weather looked good when the opening acts began, Bedenbender said.

The venue notified the public of the two lightning-related delays, but eventually gave the go-ahead. People started pouring into the room, but shortly after someone announced that they were urging people to take shelter from an impending storm.

Bedenbender said hail was never specifically mentioned.

Moments later — not enough time to seek shelter, Bedenbender said — large chunks of hail began raining down on the panicking and fleeing audience members.

Bedenbender separated from two of her cousins ​​in the chaos but pulled the third against a wall and held his denim jacket over their heads to try and act as a makeshift umbrella.

“The back of my head, hands, arms, back and legs felt like they were being pounded by sharp rocks, and young girls were screaming in pain,” she said. “I really felt like I was in a war zone with all the hailstorms and screaming.”

After a few minutes, Bedenbender said he saw people pile into a nearby storage closet.

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