Roskilde 2000 - What happened
Created | Updated Apr 20, 2002
Friday 30th June, Day 2 of the Festival.
On this day at about 11:30pm, 8 people died and many more were hurt.
Eight festival-goers - all men - died as the crowd surged forward on a muddy farm field during a Pearl Jam concert.
Twenty-six people were injured, three of them seriously.
They say the four identified so far were fans from four different nationalities - reflecting the festival's huge international following.
The victims were a 26-year-old cadet police officer from Hamburg, a 23-year-old Dutchman and three Swedes, two of them aged 22 and one 20.
Three Danes, including a 17-year-old, also died.
The rain that had been threatening the day before came today. You notice how much it can rain when you are camping at a festival. With 100,000 people walking over and over the same ground it was not long before you could not see the roads. The only thing you could see was a sea of mud.
I tell you this because my first thoughts about what happened later that night was that people must have slipped on the mud.
I don't think this is the case now. The next day we visited the area in front of the main stage. My girlfriend said:
'Strange, I thought it (the mud) would have been much worse here'.
It was true; all around the area where the crowd would have been was relatively dry.
Another possible 'cause' was the metal barriers that are placed near to the front of the stage(s). It was believed that people were pushed up against these and therefore crushed. These barriers had received a lot of criticism, even before the deaths. I agree with the organisers on this. They prevent more accidents than they cause. I was at Roskilde last year. During one band's performance I was very near to the front, just behind a barrier. When the crowd pushed forwards I was pushed against the barrier and was unable (for a while) to breath.
So far the police have only hinted at this being a possible cause. Of course the press have jumped all over this 'angle'. As I do not know yet if any of the victims had taken anything, I can not fully comment on this. I will say that having been at the front of such a crowd, drugs are highly unlikely to make that many people collapse.
This was something that both Oasis and Pet Shop Boys used as part of the reason they cancelled. The argument was that the security was not enough and/or good enough. This is rubbish. This is one of the most well-run festivals I have ever been too. You only have to look at the stats for the festival - 75,000 visitors and 25,000 staff (includes bands and their staff). Even taking out all the non-security people it must have been something like 1 security person to every 6 people?
As we were not in the crowd, I can not tell you what it was like to be in there. Even so, the effects flowed across the entire site within an hour. We were in the campsite area not far from the main stage on our way back to the tent. I could hear someone speaking English across the loudspeakers. Even though I could not fully hear what was said at first, the tone of his voice was very clear. Something very bad had happened.
The voice said something about some people being hurt at the Pearl Jam stage. Everyone must move backwards to help them.
It felt like we should go towards that area to see what was happening, but I thought if it was that bad then more people going to have a look, would only make it worse. We listened to the radio for news.
Then it came on; suddenly it felt very unreal. I have been lucky, so far, in my life that I have never experienced real shock, but I am sure that this was very close.
Then panic hit us both. My cousin and her friend from England had come to the festival with us. They were not with us when we got back to the tent. What if they were in that crowd? It was almost too horrible to think of. Fortunately they were okay and did come back so, afterwards, we sat and talked about it for what seemed like hours. It was quite a dramatic picture, us four sitting in the tent entrances facing each other, candles flicking, dark skies above and an almost quiet floating across the campsite.
The next day
No one seemed to know what to do. The difference was amazing. Yesterday people were running around (in the mud!), laughing, etc. Today most were stumbling through the dirt.
We decided that we should stay at least today. So we went walking through the central festival site (where the bands play), to take some pictures. After going all around we ended up walking towards the main stage area. The closer we got the slower we walked. It felt horrible. It felt like walking through treacle. You could feel the atmosphere building up the closer you got.
There, in front of us, was the main stage, just in front of it the metal barriers with policemen searching. The area was taped off by the police. There was a small crowd around the tape. Even though you knew the bodies had been cleared away, something in your mind expected to see the dead there and then. Maybe we could in a way.
I wanted to take a picture, but no sooner had I thought about it, than I thought 'is that not horrible, morbid? I asked my girlfriend this and if she thought anyone would mind. She said that she did not think people would mind, so I did. The picture is very spooky.
I would like to say that you should still go to a festival. There is nothing close to the atmosphere. Just remember to think a bit more next time. Crowds are at many events, not just festivals. I do hope that the small minded minority of people who would love to use this as an excuse to close down such festivals, do not get their way. The only way you can help to prevent this from happening is to keep going and play safely (do not worry, this does still involve lots of beer etc! ).
I would also like you to read some quotes from other people there:
'The festival spirit has gone, We'll stay because going home would mean turning our back to what has happened.'
Edwin Walter, 16, of Sweden.
'This is so painful. I think we are all waiting for someone to wake us and say it was just a horrible nightmare.'
The band (Pearl Jam) said in a statement.
'There are absolutely no words to express our anguish in regard to the parents and loved ones of those precious lives that were lost.'
'The guy in front of me was so shocked he simply screamed. It was impossible to get anywhere.'
Erik Olsen, 17, of Norway
'It is very difficult to put words on the fact that so many young people have lost their lives'
Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen