The stage collapsed at Belgium’s Pukkelpop festival yesterday (August 18) due to a freak weather storm which hit the site. It led to five deaths and a number of injuries. Dry The River’s Peter Liddle saw the whole thing unfold
“In the morning it was actually sunny, we were wearing T-shirts and shorts. We got to the venue at like 5pm and it was beginning to get gloomy. Then at about 6pm the rain began and it got really, really bad for about 10 minutes.
“We were set to be playing The Chateau Stage after Smith Westerns played. There was a torrential downpour and it had gotten pretty dark. We were waiting in the tent behind the ramp which got you onto the stage, but then we moved to the Portakabin at the back to get some shelter.
“The rain storms came down pretty quickly and there was heavy, heavy hail. We knew things had taken a turn for the worse when the lights went out- the lightbulbs on stage just blew. We were worried that the Portakabin wouldn’t be sturdy enough to withstand the wind.
“Then the roof of the stage began sagging and came in on itself, it happened so quickly. Smith Westerns’ guitarist was nearly hit by the lighting rig. They ran off stage to where we were, they were worried about their equipment being insured.
“It was then we began hearing the sirens and saw ambulances arriving. We saw an entire gazebo tent being picked up by the storm, we also saw that the sound-desk had been smashed up completely. Even then we didn’t realize how bad it had got until the police came in, cordoned off the area and we saw people wrapped in bandages being taken away on stretchers.
“But then the weather eased off, people were coming into the Portakabin with red marks on their faces from the hailstones. I don’t think you can compare it to what happened in Indiana [a stage also collapsed at a US country music show last weekend], it was two different climates.
“I spoke to our agent and she said that they’d never had a storm like that. People have run music festivals for years under bad weather conditions. It was just… strange and tragic. No one could have prepared for it, what happened was just one of those terrible things. There’s no blame to be placed for what took place.
“Our thoughts are with everyone who was there. We also have the biggest respect to the emergency services. They responded quickly and really efficiently. They got people out of there really quickly and they kept people really informed about what was happening.”