Thousands of children’s lives were at risk during an underage disco in the Odyssey, the managers of the complex have claimed.
Shane King, from the Sheridan group which runs the Odyssey Pavilion, took the decision to cancel Sunday night’s event at Bar Seven after 4,000 teenagers tried to get in to the 800-capacity venue.
Mr King said the Odyssey has also suspended all future youth discos until an investigation by the PSNI and Belfast City Council is completed.
The PSNI and Harbour Police had to be called in to help evacuate the building.
“There was a potential for |injury, people were starting to push in all directions. That’s why I took the decision to close,” Mr King said.
“I was down there at 6pm and everything was fine and when I went back to check at about 6.50pm there were thousands of teenagers trying to get in. In those 45 or 50 minutes things went from being manageable to being completely unmanageable.
“We have a capacity of 800 and the bouncers did a countback which meant kids who arrived late were at the cut off point and they started to surge forward.
“50% of the schools in Belfast were returning yesterday, it was a Sunday night so a lot of church goers wouldn’t attend and we were thinking about 400 or 500 would turn up.
“Such was the surge that we were being pushed back. There are glass-fronted doors to Bar Seven, and were those doors to crack or break, with that crowd pushing the potential for injury was too great.”
Mr King disputed claims that security staff had been heavy-handed.
“Security staff were excellent. If they were heavy-handed in trying to assist people from getting crushed then it was for their own safety. They were trying to preserve life and I totally commend the way they acted in what was a tricky situation. We were also very fortunate to have two PSNI officers who were in the area on another operation and were able to assist us.”
Andrew McQuillan, director of Select Management and Security, said: “The numbers who attended this event were far larger than
anything ever seen before at this venue. Sections of the crowd broke away and tried to force their way through after the queue was closed. Thankfully, the emergency plan worked and we managed to relieve the pressure at the front of the crowd and get people safely through Bar Seven to the outside.”
A message posted by promoter Inferno U on the Bebo website said: “Due to unforeseen circumstances we had to cancel tonight’s event — please hang on to your wristband, and we will be releasing a statement shortly — but please keep your wristband and stay tuned.”
Refunds will be paid out today and tomorrow between 3pm and 6pm.