The disaster at the Salt Palace last week, resulting in the deaths of two teenagers and serious injuries to two other persons, cries out for a new policy of rock concert crowd control.
Tragedy struck during a typically energetic show by the Australian hard-rock quintet AC/DC. The victims apparently fell and were asphyxiated within a crush of fans on the main concert floor of the Salt Palace's Acord Arena.The deaths were the first in Utah rock concert history, but they are not likely to be the last unless major changes are made.
Adololescents who have no regularly assigned seats have shown a propensity to push continually forward, jockeying for position, hopefully on the front row. As pressure increases, the heat can become intense and people can be crushed in the crowd, unable to breathe properly.
Anyone who slips to the floor may not be able to get up again because of the pressure of the tightly packed crowd and could be in danger of suffocation. Those who fainted from the estimated 100-degree heat Friday night, were regularly hoisted overhead out of the crowd.
It didn't help those who died. They were found on the floor when the house lights went up, asphyxiated.
Although it has been reported that 13,294 people attended the concert when the maximum capacity is 13,920, the problem is not with total numbers. The problem, clearly, is a general admission policy that is flawed and leads to pushing, shoving and crowding. It should be immediately scrapped.
Under general admission or "festival seating," no chairs are provided on the floor. Concertgoers are free to stand wherever they desire, with all the attendant problems of pushing and shoving once the crowd gets involved in the concert.
All safety considerations become secondary to the mood of the moment. As the crowd surges forward, many people lose control and become swept under foot, some becoming trampled. It is a vicious cycle that has been well publicized in several larger cities.
This problem has been evident in many other concerts at the Salt Palace. Unfortunately, it has taken tragedy to call public attention to it. It is also evident that concert security is very limited with no attempt at crowd control. Pouring gallons of water on concertgoers is not the answer.
It is vital that managers of the Salt Palace deal quickly and realistically with this problem to avert death and injury in the future.