'This is dying - then I blacked out': Falls victim speaks as class action looms
The law firm leading a class action law suit against the Falls Festival in Australia says it has had a "significant" response from victims of the crowd stampede on December 30.
The claim comes as graphic photos have emerged of a 22-year-old woman who suffered two black eyes, and fractured her sacrum – a bone at the base of the spine – after she ended up "at the very bottom" of the pile during the crowd crush.
"Maddy" told Triple J's Hack program "I just remember going, 'this is it, this is death. This is you dying.' And then I blacked out."
"There still aren't any whites in my eyes – it's just blood," Maddy said, almost two weeks after the stampede.
Maddy was one of dozens of people caught in the crush in the Grand Theatre tent shortly after the band DMA's wrapped up its act.
Festivalgoers were rushing from the tent to see London Grammar at a different stage shortly before 10pm, when some people lost their footing on the gravel floor.
Nineteen people were hospitalised and 60 treated by paramedics in the wake of the stampede.
Narrow exit points and poor scheduling between bands have been blamed for the incident.
"I remember letting go of my friends hand when I fell," Maddy said.
"I fell over the girls who had fallen down, and I kind of flipped and went on my back and started getting dragged along the ground.
"People just started piling on top of me. I was still moving until it wasn't possible for me to move myself.
"I don't know how many people were on top of me but I was at the very bottom.
"I remember telling myself, 'go up for air, go up for air', but I couldn't move at all. It wasn't painful being crushed, it was more painful not being able to breathe.
"I couldn't move any limbs and my head was to the side facing down. There were legs next to me and I remember biting someone to try and get them to pull me up."
Maddy said her recovery could take up to three months, and she is using crutches to move around. She is unable to work at her casual retail job.
Last week an Australian law firm urged people affected by the incident to come forward and help form a potential class action lawsuit against the festival.
On Wednesday class action principal Brendan Pendergast of Maddens Lawyers said at least 40 people had come forward, which meant the law firm was likely to pursue a class action.
"There's been a significant response,," Mr Pendergast said.
"Approximately 40 people have registered with us."
He said those who had been in contact had suffered broken bones, lost or damaged property, or suffered psychological trauma after witnessing the incident.
"Almost every person reports that they were terrified ... some are really struggling with it," he said.
"The law requires there to be at least seven people to be affected. We're presently seeking conference and advice with senior council, and we'll have that advice within the next few days.
"Our present view is that there is a cause of action and that we're likely to proceed with it."
Early investigations had pointed to site design being at the heart of the late-night catastrophe, Mr Pendergast said.
"Entrances and exits to the venue in question, barricades surrounding walkways, even the material on the walkways themselves … these were all conditions that were well outside the control of festival patrons," he said
Eleven days after the crush, Maddy told Triple J Hack, the festival was yet to offer her any compensation. But she said she was unsure if she would join any class action.
"I still don't know what I'm going to do. I don't want to blame one thing, one person ... But [the festival] does have duty of care. At the end of the day they do have a responsibility," she said.
"I'm not angry. I'm just here, in my room, waiting. And I'll be here in my room for another three months."
In response, the festival's organisers posted a statement on Facebook about 12am Wednesday saying they were still trying to contact everyone involved in the stampede.
"There is a process in place whereby we have been directly contacting patrons," the post said.
"This process has been underway for some time and there have been a large number of people who have been contacted to date, including Maddy's mother.
"We are still working through this process and are still contacting people.
"We have asked those who we have contacted for information relating to their experience and involvement in the incident, so we can consider everything thoroughly and fairly."
The festival organisers said investigations into the incident were ongoing, and "we are endeavouring to do this as quickly and as thoroughly as possible to be able to deal with all enquiries".
"We want to ensure the correct protocol is being followed so that all involved are given the depth of consideration they need to give them the chance to get the best possible outcome.
"We want to get this right, for the long term, so it is imperative that the correct procedures are followed."
- The Age