Belfast Telegraph

'Lesson learned' from concert crush

The promoter of a country music festival where members of the audience and police were injured in a crush has vowed to learn lessons from the episode.

The incident at the Jamboree in the Park event in Fintona, Co Tyrone, on Saturday night was triggered when crowds surged toward the main entrance into the concert venue as singer Derek Ryan was about to start performing.

As the 12 foot-wide doorway was also the only exit from the Ecclesville Centre's arena out to a concourse area where toilets and bars were located, a major jam developed as those trying to get in to see the music encountered those wishing to get out.

Crowd members reported being knocked to the ground and trampled over in ensuing chaotic scenes.

The PSNI confirmed that a number of members of the public and police officers sustained injuries.

Andrew Short, of event promoters AJS, acknowledged the incident was frightening for those caught up in it.

But he insisted the ticketed event, which was attended by around 3,700 people, was not overcrowded.

"It was definitely a very scary situation, there were a lot of contributing factors that caused it," he said.

Saturday was the biggest draw of the festival's three-night programme, with Ryan and fellow country star Nathan Carter both on the bill.

Mr Short, who said he had 16 years experience in the promotions business, insisted a management plan had been organised in advance and when the crowd issue arose it was deployed.

He said the opening of other doors and a temporary stop to the music enabled the congestion to be alleviated within 10 minutes.

"Thankfully we had procedures and event plan in place to be able to sort that out," he said.

"We are not in the business to just run an event and disappear, we do everything properly. I spoke to the authorities beforehand."

The promoter claimed a number of young people under the influence of alcohol contributed to the problem.

"I was standing in the middle of it and we were trying to encourage people to stand back and I witnessed a large group of young people and they were loving every minute of it, and they were pushing, and, as soon as they saw the police, they maybe pushed all the harder," he said.

"There were a lot of coaches came here, young people came with drink definitely taken. When they come to the door it's as if they nearly straighten themselves up back up again and they go in, and as soon as they go in they just go a bit mad."

He said if he hosted future similar events in the centre he would ensure there were separate exit and entrance doors.

"Lessons have been learnt here," he added.

A spokeswoman for the PSNI said: "Police were in attendance at the event as part of the traffic management plans.

"Officers became aware of an issue in relation to the number of people attending and spoke to the organisers in order to ensure additional doors were opened for entry and exit.

"A number of members of the public were injured during this event and a number of police officers also received minor injuries.

"Two males were arrested at the scene for disorderly behaviour and assault on police. They were later released on bail pending further enquiries.

"PSNI will be working with Omagh District Council and other statutory agencies in relation to this matter."

A spokesman for the Ecclesville Centre, which had rented out the facility for the festival and had no organisational role, said it would be carrying out its own investigation into what happened.

Members of the centre's board of directors are to hold a special meeting tomorrow to discuss the incident.

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