Smith Westerns Involved In Stage Collapse At Belgium's Pukkelpop Festival
Smith Westerns first reported via Twitter that they were involved in a tragic stage collapse during a storm on Thursday night, August 18, at Belgium's Pukkelpop Festival, the band's first European festival stop. This latest accident comes on the heels of the tragic collapse of stage rigging that killed five people at the Indiana State Fair, just prior to a Sugarland gig, this past weekend.
UPDATE: As of Friday morning, five were confirmed dead and over 70 fans injured. The balance of the festival has been cancelled by organizers.
Frontman Cullen Omori tweeted shortly before their 6:15 p.m. set that it looked like it was about to rain at Pukkelpop and then reported: "Stage collapsed max almost got crushed by the tress. I hope pukkelpop has insurance bc all our s**t is broke." He followed that up with, "Praying no one got hurt. Wtf."
Later in the day, Omori posted an official statement: "We had just finished the first song of our set at Pukkelpop when the stage/tent started shaking and simply thought it was a storm passing through. I made a comment about Cheap Trick and we were about to play the next one when our tour manager yelled at me to run off the stage. Right then the tress collapsed 1 foot in front of [guitarist] Max [Kakacek]. At this point we thought only the stage broke, not the tent. Amid the chaos it was hard to tell exactly what had happened, but after the rescue teams started coming in it became clear that there were severe injuries and we are now being told there are reports of multiple deaths. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families who lost loved ones in today's tragedy."
A fan tweeted a photo of the collapsed stage here and another took a shot of the crushed dance tent. In another unverified report, there are six people who were apparently killed in the collapse. The festival has been cancelled for the night and Pukkelpop organizer Chokri Mahassine has told the Associated Press that the festival is on hold "until we understand the situation completely."
There are ongoing reports that stormy weather destroyed The Chateau stage and The Shelter stage was flattened by falling trees. The dance tent was also affected. Jared Leo of 30 Seconds To Mars, in the midst of what he calls a "crazy storm," tweeted in caps "Four stages down - still raining + thunder. If you are here please be safe."
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart have tweeted: "We're all safe. Our best wishes, prayers and sincerest sympathy to everyone who's been hurt in today's tragedy at Pukkelpop."
Wolf Gang tweeted a photo of backstage after the storm hit while Fleet Foxes tweeted shortly after 3 p.m. EDT: "We are all safe at Pukkelpop. Crazy storm. This is awful. Hearts go out to all."
The Naked and Famous, also at the festival, posted on Facebook: "Pukkelpop has been destroyed by the worst storm we have ever been in. Please everyone: help each other."
The violent intensity of the storm can be seen in a fan video that has been posted on YouTube.
As of 2:40 p.m. EDT, BBC News reported that at least 4 people have died at the festival, near Hasselt. An estimated 60,000 people were attending the event.
At 3 p.m. EDT Pukkelpop announced during a press conference that 3 people had been killed and 40 others injured. According to the Associated Press, the figure stands at 3 dead and 71 injured.
As of Friday morning, August 19, five people were confirmed dead and over 71 injured.