Jun 22, 2023 - News

Red Rocks makes safety tweaks after hail storm that injured dozens

Lightning streaks across the sky during a weather delay at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Photo: Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A hailstorm that injured dozens at Red Rocks Amphitheatre and sent seven to the hospital β€” an event some are calling the scariest night of their lives β€” isn't being taken seriously enough by the city, some people say.

What happened: 80 to 90 people were treated on scene after being pelted by ice up to the size of tennis balls at a Louis Tomlinson concert on Wednesday night, according to West Metro Fire Rescue, which responded to the incident.

  • With many concertgoers unable to escape and seek shelter, people were left bloodied and bruised with injuries spanning broken bones, welts and cuts.

What they're saying: In a statement Thursday morning, the outdoor concert venue, which is run by Denver Arts & Venues, offered "sincere best wishes" to those affected and assured fans in a tongue-and-cheek manner it's "having a little talk with Mother Nature about this weather business at Red Rocks."

  • That didn't go over well. Red Rocks received immediate backlash for what many perceived as a flippant response. Spokesman Brian Kitts defended it, however, telling Axios Denver that "weather is part of [the] experience."
  • Kitts also said Red Rocks managers rely on contractor Skyview for guidance on National Weather Service forecasts, and attendees were warned of the weather threat as early as possible.

The other side: Meteorologists say hail injuries at the concert could have been avoided if Red Rocks had carried out its safety policies sooner. Local forecasters had begun sounding the alarm of severe weather as early as 9am Wednesday.

  • "This is something that could have been prevented," Chris Vagasky, a meteorologist and member of the National Lightning Safety Council, told the Washington Post.

Between the lines: If venue organizers cancel concerts too soon, they risk losing millions of dollars, Kitts said. "We're in a little bit of a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don't situation."

What's next: Kitts told Axios Denver the venue is making some changes after Wednesday's nightmare, including better educating fans that "weather can be unpredictable," that "they need to be prepared to take shelter" and "when we say 'Go,' we mean 'Go.'"

  • Kitts said the city will also better train staff to make sure they know how to get people to safety, and officials are currently "gathering more information" regarding claims that workers were filming and laughing at attendees attempting to flee the storm.
  • It's "a common-sense thing if you are in an emergency situation and people are in danger, you should do whatever it takes to help them out. If that didn't happen … then we've got some work to do," Kitts told us.

By the numbers: At 8:07pm, Red Rocks' Twitter issued a weather delay, sending many attendees back to their cars.

  • 8:35pm: The venue reported it had received an "all clear."
  • 9:14pm: The venue issued a second weather delay.
  • 9:26pm: The National Weather Service reported a "significant storm" near Red Rocks with "golf ball sized hail or larger," and urged people to "take cover with this storm!!"
  • 10:25pm: Red Rocks announced the show was officially postponed.

What we're watching: Whether a class-action lawsuit is in order.

  • In 2014, for example, Live Nation and the country band Sugarland were forced to pay a $39 million settlement stemming from a severe weather event that led to a stage collapse that killed seven and injured dozens.

Be smart: If in a hailstorm, the National Weather Service suggests you take shelter in a sturdy building, away from windows.

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