Red Rocks employee: “I’ve never seen an event go down like this”

An employee working at the Red Rocks Amphitheater when the concert crowd was viciously pelted with hailstones on Wednesday night criticized the decision to delay the performance which, in his words, gave fans hope the show would go ahead as planned .

The announcement to take shelter came just three minutes before the hailstorm hit, the employee said. Fans had no chance to get to their cars.

Conversely, there was also not enough room in the venue facilities to accommodate the large crowds present, he said.

The employee agreed to speak with CBS News Colorado only on condition of anonymity. The employee said he had more than a decade of experience working at Red Rocks, but could be fired for speaking out about the incident.

He also refuted fan claims on social media that Red Rocks workers watched and laughed as fans unable to find shelter suffered from the elements, although he readily admitted to not witnessing all the conduct. during the storm.

RELATED Concertgoer describes his experience at Red Rocks after the hailstorm: “The scariest 15 minutes of my life”

Nearly 100 people were injured as a result of their exposure to the storm. Eight people were hospitalized.

West Metro Fire Department

RELATED Hailstorm Beats Onlookers at Red Rocks Wednesday Night

There were actually two delays. The employee said the first had been done in a long time.

“There were three acts in total (that) night,” he said. “An announcement was made over the loudspeakers that the second act was cancelled. The venue is making the call.”

The weather didn’t immediately turn severe, and many fans stayed to hold on to general admission seats (first come, first served).

But when the wind started whipping around 15 minutes before the downpour and stage workers opted to lower the large digital monitors that swayed above the stage, the decision to cancel should have been made. , in his opinion.

“It gave hope, but it really should be a time to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and get people moving,” the employee said. “You could stand in the amphitheater, look up and say, ‘That doesn’t seem right. I think it was obvious that something was brewing and it wasn’t going to be safe.”

The second warning advised fans to “get to your car,” he said. But there was no time.

When the hail came, he and other employees tried to get people to the sides of the stage, the hallways, the restrooms and the visitor center. Anywhere there was a roof. But there’s not enough room in the open-air concert hall to accommodate a “nearly packed” crowd. The same exposure to nature’s offerings that makes seeing a show at this iconic venue a bucket list for many fans – some certainly inspired by U2’s rainy 1983 rendition of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” – also puts onlookers at the mercy of the elements.

The unnamed employee said he did not see other employees locking fans out of the shelters or making fun of them, as some fans claimed the next day.

“I personally didn’t see that. Very disturbing. I know we had a lot of people who were in a panic attack. Lots of chaos. Some people (employees) were frozen in the way, go this way.’ ”


“Reading this (about allegations) breaks my heart. I would have slapped someone if I heard or saw him mocking the fans. You stay professional, you stay calm. Anyone who did this should be fired .”

The roughly 100 workers, he added, saw their cars damaged or destroyed as fans did, and many were struggling less than 24 hours later with what he interpreted as symptoms of PTSD.

“I think it’s unprecedented,” the employee lamented. “I’ve never seen an event unfold like this. So many people hurt, so many people traumatized. It was just surreal.”

The incident prompts reflection on whether to erect more shelters at a facility designed for outdoor entertainment that is already surrounded by parking lots in difficult terrain; the distinction between public safety and personal responsibility; and the reliability of using entertainment management to predict dangerous weather conditions for thousands of people.

RELATED Hailstorm in Red Rocks: Cellphone videos and photos show terrifying scene

On Friday, as social media filled with images of vulnerable onlookers struggling in the maelstrom, the park posted a statement.

The response was not well received by many, including the employee we spoke to.

“Where is the responsibility? What is the next step ? ” he said. “It’s a bit disturbing the way the answer is. It sounds like a general ‘don’t care’ attitude.”

Later, in an interview, Brian Kitts of the City of Denver Arts and Venues said, “I think we’re going to be leaning a little harder to tell the fans to keep an eye on the stage and an eye on heaven. And when they say it’s time to seek shelter, do it quickly, because that means it’s an emergency situation.”

Louis Tomlinson, the headliner who never took the stage that night, responded the next day with his condolences to his fans. And a promise.

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