Charges Unlikely In Deaths At Pearl Jam Festival Performance

Nine concertgoers died after being crushed at a Pearl Jam show Friday in Denmark.

Police investigating the deadly crowd surge that halted Pearl Jam's performance Friday at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark say it is unlikely charges will be filed.

"It is not decided, but there are no signs that anyone will be prosecuted," Roskilde police spokesperson Bengt Rungstroem said. "We have talked to all the people we could get a hold of, all the people among the audience, the security guards and so on. But there are a lot of people we have not talked to yet."

The investigation likely will determine whether the nine people who died from injuries sustained at the concert — held 25 miles west of the Danish capital of Copenhagen — were crushed when an estimated crowd of 25,000 fans gathered at the main stage began pushing from behind, or whether they were trampled after sinking into the muddy grounds.

As many as 26 others were injured during the incident, which occurred around midnight as Pearl Jam performed "Daughter" (RealAudio excerpt of live version).

Police hope to close the investigation by the end of next week, Rungstroem said, after another round of discussions with Roskilde promoters and entertainers.

Roskilde Festival spokesman Leif Skov was not available for comment Thursday (July 6).

Shared Blame

Paul Wertheimer, owner of Crowd Management Strategies, a concert safety-consulting firm that released a report earlier this year tallying nearly 70 concert deaths in 1999, said several people should share fault for the Roskilde tragedy.

"All parties involved were responsible in some way. What exactly those roles were, we'll have to see," Wertheimer said. "The promoter should have had a plan of action if there was an emergency situation. Pearl Jam was also aware of the dangers of this."

According to several concertgoers, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder repeatedly asked the crowd to move back, but the rush continued.

Neither Pearl Jam nor their fans are to blame for the deaths, said Nina Crowley, an anti-censorship activist with MassMic who worked a booth at the festival. Crowley thinks the muddy conditions caused people to sink to the ground and get trampled. She said it rained all day Friday and the mud was several inches deep.

Dangerous Conditions

Crowley said festival organizers did nothing to deal with the mud until Saturday, when they brought out backhoes and put down wood chips in other areas of the festival, except the main stage. Boff Whalley, guitarist for Chumbawamba, who played the festival Saturday night, said the weather and the hard-rock music had a bigger role in the tragedy than the Roskilde promoters, whom he praised for being "very, very well organized."

"If you had the same kind of conditions, the same kind of music and people, at any other festival, it would be just as likely for that stuff to happen," Whalley said. "It will be interesting to see what comes out in the next couple of weeks."

No matter what the investigation reveals about the cause, Whalley said it will not be possible to solve all the safety concerns surrounding large festivals.

"How far can you legislate in writing to stop something like that?" he said. "You could say, 'We won't have that kind of music.' Or, 'We won't have that kind of music when the weather is bad.' You could make a thousand suggestions, but in the end, people go to festivals to be one person among several thousand people and that's the thrill of it."

Wertheimer, who has staged a lengthy discussion about Roskilde on his Web site (www.crowdsafe.com), said the concert industry is capable of ending festival injuries and deaths.

On his site, he suggests a law prohibiting the sale of "festival" (general admission) seating. He also proposes emergency on-the-scene police authority and stricter laws on overselling venues as ways to prevent dangerous incidents.

"All the solutions, all the guidelines, already exist," Wertheimer said. "What we see are the same problems occurring over and over again."