Beach party ends in chaos as 250,000 swamp Brighton

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The Independent Online

Senior officers are beginning an inquiry today into a free dance event at which one man died and 30 others were injured when an estimated 250,000 revellers swamped Brighton's seafront.

Senior officers are beginning an inquiry today into a free dance event at which one man died and 30 others were injured when an estimated 250,000 revellers swamped Brighton's seafront.

More than four times the number of people expected converged on the south-coast city on Saturday, encouraged by the hot weather and the turntable skills of DJ Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim.

Emergency services were stretched to capacity by the huge crowds at the Big Beach Boutique II event.

There were chaotic scenes as people clung to ambulances to escape the crush while casualties had to be ferried out of the resort by lifeboat, and human gridlock on the streets prevented vehicles and stretcher parties from reaching treatment centres.

Thousands were left stranded in Brighton overnight because transport services were overwhelmed by returning crowds. Massive traffic queues built up on the A23 as far back as Hickstead, 10 miles north of Brighton, while rail operators enlisted extra trains and buses to cope. British Transport Police's acting Inspector Barry Carpenter said officers had had to shut Brighton station's gates periodically to control the crowds entering the station.

Police said a man in his 40s had died on the beach after suffering a heart attack at about 10pm on Saturday. And an investigation was under way after a 26-year-old woman was critically injured after falling from the Upper Esplanade at 1.20am. Chris Oswick of Sussex Police said there were "lessons to be learnt" from the event.

A meeting today including Sussex Police, council representatives and event organisers will discuss how to manage future events. A senior ambulance service manager said while it was almost impossible to limit numbers to a free, outdoor party, operational planning needed to be better.

Steve Tilling, a senior control centre manager for Sussex Ambulance Service, said: "We need to approach this event on the side of caution and look at ways of limiting numbers, because it did have a major effect on the people of Brighton, and on emergency services."

A statement released by the organisers read: "Although the numbers were huge, the emergency services and local authority across the city responded superbly to this extraordinary event." However, some revellers were left shocked by the events. Stephen Vaughan, 23, from south London, who went to the beach gig, thought it could have led to "another Hillsborough".

Jonathan Evan, 29, also from south London, criticised a series of Tannoy announcements that had directed people to leave the beach and led to a "mass exodus" at the end of the party. A total of six people were arrested.

Emily Hobbs, 31, from Croydon, south London, was horrified by the overcrowding. "It was utter lunacy. We could not get close enough to hear, let alone see anything. People were hanging out of buildings and standing on top of cars just to try and get a look.

"Ambulances were trying to get through the crowds and people were hanging off the back just to get away from the crowds. We could not get home and all the hotels were full so we had to sleep under the pier," she said.

The chaos did not go unnoticed by the star of the show. Cook, 39, said: "I didn't enjoy it as much as last year what with people falling over and things going on. I never thought it would turn out like this. I've created a monster."

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