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Questions asked about Madrid Arena after fourth person dies as a result of Halloween show crowd surge

By | Published on Thursday 8 November 2012

Thriller Music Park

The mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella, has banned “mega-parties” and large-scale concerts from taking place at city-owned venues in the Spanish capital in the wake of last week’s fatal crowd surge at a Halloween show headlined by Steve Aoki at the Madrid Arena.

The ban comes as big questions are being asked about the number of tickets sold for the Thriller Music Park show, the quality of security on the night, whether required permits had been acquired, and whether the arena was ever fit to host such a large event.

Three gig-goers died at the scene after a crowd surge in a key corridor that led to the main venue in the arena, while a fourth died from her injuries over the weekend and a fifth remains in a critical condition. The latest victim was seventeen years old, which puts even more pressure on the event’s promoters and security operation, given it was an eighteen and over show.

It now also seems certain that the setting off of a pyrotechnic by an audience member contributed to the fatal crush. Although overcrowding in the key corridor had begun before the explosion, most agree the loud bang created the panic that made the overcrowding fatal. Questions, therefore, are also being asked as to how an audience member was able to take pyrotechnics into the venue.

As previously reported, promoters of the show insist that the event, which had a licence for 10,600 gig goers in a venue with a 12,000 capacity, had not actually sold out, and that in the region of 9600 people were admitted.

But many who attended the show are convinced there were vastly more people in the building on the night, some estimates exceeding 20,000, either because the promoters sold more tickets than they said, or because there was a proliferation of fake tickets, or because people were getting in without tickets due to slack security, or a combination of the three. Some have also suggested that the high numbers of people trying to gain access to the event in part contributed to problem, with security abandoning ID checks, bag searches and the tearing of tickets in order to deal with crowds outside the arena.

Even if the number of people admitted to the venue overall was not so vastly over capacity as some have suggested, it does seem certain that another big problem was that ticketholders could drift between the three floors of the venue. This meant that access corridors were particularly busy, and that the main ground floor area closest to the stage was definitely over-capacity, maybe two-fold.

According to Spin, some are also claiming that the venue should never have been used for an event on the scale of Thriller Music Park, and the only reason is could was because, as a city-owned building, certain permit obligations that would exist for privately-owned operations did not apply, or were not enforced.

Local press have found an official report from 2010 criticising the arena’s security, ventilation, fire-suppression systems, storage of flammable materials and insufficient passageways leading from each level to the exterior of the building. The latter issue, of course, was responsible for last week’s deaths. Meanwhile a police report from as far back as 2006 has surfaced that questioned why the venue was being able to host such major events without a full and proper licence from city authorities.

Police are now reviewing 1350 hours of video footage to get a better idea of what went wrong. Some fear that, in a bid to divert attention from the numerous alleged failings by local authorities in running and regulating the city’s arena, political leaders may claim that large-scale dance music events are simply more dangerous than other forms of live entertainment, which could hinder the staging of such events in the future, even though a number of pre-emptive measures – many obvious requirements to experienced venue owners and festival promoters – could have prevented last week’s tragedy.