When You See Things from a Lawyer’s Perspective, These Unfortunate Accidents are Predictable
When one enters law school, you are told that “the education will teach you to think differently.” In time, you learn what this means: That lawyers are taught to think with care and precision, to use their powers of both inductive and deductive reasoning, and to calculate risks and find traps. Put simply, we are taught to think defensively – our minds look at the world and say, “how can we protect… ourselves… our children… our clients?”
This unique way of thinking – to look for traps and patterns – is never more apparent than when I sit at a nice steakhouse with my wife. Instead of enjoying the food, I study the knife the waiter gave me to cut the steak. Inevitably, I announce that this a weapon, and if somebody in the restaurant went crazy and started stabbing people, then I’d take the victim’s case, because handing out a weapon in a public place is “negligent behavior.” My poor wife usually responds with a roll of her eyes and mumbles that I’m the voice of “gloom and doom.”
Astroworld – the Latest Concert Tragedy
So, it goes without saying that when this voice of “gloom and doom” read the weekend news about the Travis Scott concert tragedy, all I could mutter was “wow – again – will these concert holders ever learn?”
If you are not familiar with this occurrence, all you need to know is that 50,000 concert goers at the Astroworld Festival in Houston suddenly surged toward the stage. The result was that people got crushed and trampled. More than 300 people were left injured and at least eight were killed.
So, why am I not surprised? Because of the patterns you see as a lawyer: There’s a concert scheduled – maybe the facility is under-budgeted and has poor security or a poor safety plan – they don’t put out enough barricades to prevent groups from merging into other groups – they allow the crowd to become too big – they don’t have enough entrances and exits – or worse yet, they make the seating “first come/first serve.” The recipe for disaster has just been served.
Then the musician takes the stage – he gets the crowd riled up – the rational individuals turn into an irrational mob – they start to push forward, usually to get closer to the artist. But, at some point, the people up front have nowhere to go, having been stopped by a stage or a wall – but the mob keeps moving, like cattle – and the people up front begin to get crushed, and stepped on. Now self-preservation kicks in and people go into a frenzy – they climb on top of one another, shouting and punching. The scene concludes with people dying.
History Repeats Itself
If you want to see the patterns (which I’ve been saying lawyers look for and see), then why don’t we look at a small smattering of world music and sports venue tragedies, spanning 50 years, and try to spot the similarities:
- 12/6/69 – Rolling Stones Concert – Altamont Speedway, California: The Stones headlined a free concert, but the event didn’t have enough funding or planning. The Hell’s Angels were acting as security. When tensions between the bikers, bands and the crowd began to escalate, the crowd started to push, and the response was that people pulled out weapons. The end result was that a concert goer got stabbed.
- 5/26/74 – David Cassidy’s White City Stadium concert – West London: The singer was performing when the crowd surged toward the stage, crushing more than 700 fans and killed one, a 14-year-old who suffered a heart attack from being crushed.
- 5/3/77 – John Davidson – The Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire, Kentucky: A fire broke out in a packed dinner theatre as the audience waited for John Davidson to take the stage. People began pushing for the exits, leaving people trampled and crushed. 165 people died.
- 12/3/79 – The Who – Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum, Ohio: Hundreds of fans were waiting outside to enter the stadium for “first come/first serve” seating. Suddenly only a few doors opened, which caused a stampede to occur. 11 people died.
- 4/15/89 – Hillsborough Stadium – Sheffield, England: In anticipation of a soccer semi-final, there was overcrowding. People began moving toward the turn styles, and 97 people were crushed and died.
- 12/30/91 – Charity Basketball game featuring Rap Stars – City College, New York: A crowd began gathering outside the City College gym at 3 p.m. for a 6 p.m. charity basketball game featuring rap stars. Two lines were formed, one for ticket holders and one for those purchasing tickets inside. By 7 p.m. the game had yet to start and there were still 2,000 people outside. Pushing turned into a stampede and, at the bottom of the stairs at the gym entrance, only one of four doors were left open. Eight people were trampled to death and another 29 injured. Our firm actually represented a victim in this case. One of Sean “Puff Daddy” Comb’s bodyguards saw our client being crushed and pulled her over a barricade to safety, but then dropped her on her arm, causing a fracture and RSD (a complex regional pain syndrome.)
- 6/30/00- Pearl Jam Roskilde Festival – Denmark: Nine people were trampled to death in a mosh pit in the rain, which had made the ground muddy and slippery. Then fans rushed towards the band as it took the stage, setting off a stampede.
- 2/20/03 – Great White – The Station nightclub fire – Rhode Island: The band was playing a set when their tour manager set off fireworks, inadvertently setting the stage’s soundproofing foam ablaze. The audience thought it was part of the performance. Then, when people started yelling “fire,” everybody tried to flood out of the place at once, and the door just got jammed. 100 died and 230 were injured.
- 7/27/10 – Love Parade – Duisburg, Germany: A stampede killed 21 people and injured more than 500 at the Love Parade, a techno dance music festival, as thousands of attendees converged in a single tunnel that served as its only entrance and exit. Police tried to use loudspeakers to tell people entering the tunnel to turn around and leave in the other direction.
In the weeks ahead, people will launch lawsuits – they will sue Travis Scott, Live Nation, the manager, the promotor and the arena. Engineers will bring up poor stage design, poor crowd control, overcrowding, ineffective barriers, a lack of necessary permits and poor security. Some government body will conclude that the concert should have never been held. Then, the cases will settle quickly and in the millions of dollars because lives were lost, but also because every time this type of horror occurs, it is fully predictable, fully preventable and indefensible.
And people will say they’ll never forget… and the families of the deceased truly won’t… but soon, the rest will forget, and history will sadly again repeat… and more lives will be lost.