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Three Dead at Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium

August 19, 2011

This has been one strange summer.

Expect national national publications to pick up this story as an investigative piece soon; how and why so many festival stages have collapsed this summer, resulting in deaths and injuries at events worldwide. Construction companies were just put on the firing line.

We were shocked when the main stage at Indiana’s State Fair collapsed under high winds last Saturday, which resulted in five deaths and numerous injuries. The surprise however, wasn’t solely rooted in unpredictability, but also the boggling fact that it was the third such incident recorded this summer, in which music festival stages were toppled or collapsed under intense weather conditions.

(Similar incidents occurred at the Ottawa Bluesfest in July and a Flaming Lips show at the Brady District Block Party in Tulsa, Oklahoma.)

Now, tragedy has struck yet again, this time at the Pukkelpop Festival outside Hasselt, Belgium, where 60,000 attendees witnessed the realities of severe weather in densely crowded festival atmospheres. Three deaths and approximately 70 injuries were the result of chaos incited by a heavy storm that swept over the area. Much of the mayhem was centered under the main stage, which buckled under high winds and hail prior to a performance by Smith Westerns.

Additionally, multiple trees were uprooted across the fairgrounds, toppling onto festival goers and destroying nearby structures.

All performances for Thursday have been suspended by festival organizers out of respect to the victims. A Facebook page was even created to share your grievances and honor those who died. Fleet Foxes, Foo Fighters, James Blake and Battles were just a few of the performers scheduled to perform.

There’s no telling what will happen to the remainder of the schedule. The festival, which takes place August 18-20, features numerous internationally renowned acts. Whether or not the positivity of such an event can be retained for a weekend following a tragedy such as this has yet to be seen. For festival organizers, to continue the festival would be, in many ways, a public relations disaster. While I applaud them for cancelling tonight’s performances out of respect to the victims, you have to feel that a retirement of this year’s festivities is the more formal procedure.

Chokri Mahassine, the festival’s creator, has since put the event ‘on hold,’ releasing a statement on the website promising a clean-up and evaluation of the occurrence before a potential restart at 11 p.m. Friday.

Below you can see a clip of the type of mayhem Mother Nature can incite…

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