The State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating numerous complaints of overcrowding and poor crowd control during a Panic! at the Disco concert Saturday night at Blue Bayou/Dixie Landin’ park.
The band drew larger-than-normal crowds and concertgoers expressed concerns on Facebook about their safety.
“We’re evaluating it,” Fire Marshal Butch Browning said. “We’ve received complaints and seen Facebook posts. The owner is saying they weren’t over capacity. Nothing at this point tells us they’ve done anything wrong.”
Becky Ford described attending the concert with her teenage daughter as a “frightening” experience: concession stands running out of water in sweltering heat, endless lines, people passing out and getting sick, and little-to-no crowd control or security.
She also said so many people were crossing the bridge over Highland Road to leave Blue Bayou after the concert that the structure began to sway, inciting panic.
“The whole thing was horribly mismanaged,” Ford said. “I personally will never step foot in that park again. Someone’s going to get hurt.”
Ford, of Denham Springs, said no one picked up when she called Blue Bayou’s office, and when she wrote on the park’s Facebook page, her post was removed. With nowhere else to turn, Ford created her own Facebook page, and named it PanicAtTheBlueBayou.
By Monday afternoon, the page accumulated more than 600 likes and countless posts by others describing their experiences at the concert.
East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies were sent to Blue Bayou that night but were told everything was OK when they arrived, sheriff’s spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said.
Between about 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, East Baton Rouge Parish EMS responded to Blue Bayou five times, and one call resulted in an EMS transport, agency spokesman Mike Chustz said.
Although five calls in three hours is more than normal, Chustz said, he doesn’t believe the situation was critical.
Lori Olivier, who brought her teenage son and his friends to the concert, said the crowd grew to “mob size” with people becoming angry and shouting at Blue Bayou employees and others at the park.
One woman had a seizure, and Olivier, a registered nurse at Ochsner Medical Center in Kenner, said she went to help because medical and emergency personnel were nowhere to be seen. An employee did finally arrive with a wheelchair to take the woman out of the park, she said.
“It was tremendously crowded,” Olivier said. “They were way underprepared. No water, limited restrooms. I saw people who operate the rides carrying (sick) people out.”
Ford also said the concert was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., but an opening band began playing before gates were opened and “there was chaos” as people tried to get in, thinking they were missing the main act.
With more popular bands coming to Blue Bayou, Ford said, she is concerned about the safety of future concertgoers, and if anything, the fire marshal should inspect the swaying bridge that people must cross going to and from the park.
Blue Bayou did not return requests for comment on Monday.