No major injuries have been reported in the aftermath of the collapsed VIP tent at the World Creole Music Festival (WCMF). The incident occurred during the early hours of Sunday, around 3:38 am, when an unexpected and heavy tropical-depression level rainfall hit the stage-roof structure named “Tropical Disco,” leading to an emergency evacuation and leaving event-goers understandably shaken.
In a statement issued yesterday, NeXConneX and Radiance production, the organizers of the PVIP and VIP section revealed that “After receiving patron reports and conducting swift assessments: production crews were notified of pooling water and began responding to various tent-structures around the VIP but, were unable to make it to the ‘Tropical Disco’ tent in time, given the sudden nature of events.”
According to the timeline of events, it appears that the transition from rain shower to tent collapse occurred within mere minutes, the team pointed out.
As stated, members of the primary organising team who were inside the structure during the incident, were the first to respond, followed by patrons helping each other and on-site fire/medic first responders, who quickly arrived due to their close proximity.
In total, sixteen patrons reported to the on-site medical facility for treatment of cuts and bruises, with three individuals being referred to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department of the Dominica China Friendship Hospital (DCFH)for X-rays and further examination. Fortunately, all were medically cleared and released, “and we are grateful that everyone affected is recovering,” the statement from the organizers said.
As stated, following the incident, production engineering crews and local authorities immediately inspected other structures on-site for safety, and the show was allowed to continue without further incident. On night three of the festival, the team says that they maintained a focus on patron safety and security.
In the statement, NeXConneX + Radiance Productions used the opportunity to extend their gratitude to all involved, from first responders and production staff to the resilient and understanding patrons.
“This accident was truly unprecedented. We are so grateful that everyone affected is recovering. We have reached out personally to each and everyone one of the affected individuals and we continue to monitor their progress,” they said.
However, former Chief Physical Planner and engineer Genora Joseph, who was present at the event, shed light on the underlying issues that led to the stage-roof incident. Joseph pointed out on social media that the problem wasn’t merely the roof covering; rather, it was the insufficient support and the lack of proper tension in the membrane that allowed water to sag and pool.
Joseph even tried to warn security personnel under the tent about the imminent collapse, suggesting that the membrane needed to be punctured to allow water to drain. Sadly, these warnings were met with ridicule and dismissive responses, despite Joseph’s credentials as an engineer.
“I pointed out to security under the tent that a collapse was eminent [imminent] if they didn’t puncture the membrane to allow the water to drain,” she stated. “I was ridiculed and told rudely that since I complaining that I should do it myself. I continued to plead with security to get someone to rupture the membrane to drain the water. When I realised that they were more intent on ridiculing me than listening to what I had to say although I told them I was an engineer, I left the tent for my safety.”
It was a mere 20 minutes after her warnings that the tent collapsed. Joseph confronted the security, expressing her belief that the disaster could have been averted had they taken her advice seriously. However, she says that she was met with condescension, with security personnel saying, “you not happy nothing happen to you.”
In hindsight, she says “Engineering was a small part of the problem; ignorance and negligence were the main causes of that unfortunate event.”
Several other witnesses present during the incident informed Dominica News Online that they were deeply rattled and remained on edge throughout the rest of the evening, concerned that a similar incident might occur again.