By David Ovalle
The first day of the Ultra Music Festival, the Downtown Miami event that attracts tens of thousands of revelers from across the world, netted 22 arrests for police.
Anyone with information about Friday night’s incident is urged to contact the Miami Police Department’s Homicide Unit at 305-603-6350. Those with information that wish to remain anonymous can contact Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS (4877), visit www.crimestoppersmiami.com and select “Give a Tip” or Send a text message to 274637. Enter CSMD followed by the tip information and press send.
After a private security guard was viciously trampled by party-crashers at the Ultra Music Festival, city leaders on Saturday swiftly called for an end to the immensely popular Downtown Miami event.
The 28-year-old Contemporary Services Corporation guard, Erica Mack, was hospitalized at Jackson Memorial Hospital after suffering severe brain hemorrhaging. She was in critical, but stable condition on Saturday night.
Just hours before the Friday night stampede, Miami police had inspected the perimeter of the event at Bayfront Park and called for additional fencing at the spot where the guard was later injured. But no additional fencing was added.
The three-day electronic music event, which is expected to top 160,000 revelers, continues Sunday. Now in its 16th-year and amid a boom in the popularity of electronic music, Ultra has been criticized in the past for rowdiness, illegal drug use and an increase in traffic to downtown.
Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said Ultra organizers “acted irresponsibly” by failing to properly secure the venue.
“I think we should not have Ultra next year here,” Regalado told the Miami Herald on Saturday. “This incident should never have happened.”
Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff agreed, saying he has long complained about rampant drug use at the event — last year, a young man died of a drug overdose — and the possibility of trampling.
“I feel horrible for her,” Sarnoff said of the injured guard. “We knew better and we should have done better for her.”
A spokeswoman for Ultra declined to comment on Saturday night. Representatives from CSC could not be reached for comment.
The tragic episode took place about 8 p.m. Friday at a section of the fence at Southeast First Street and Biscayne Boulevard, near an area used to store heavy equipment and supplies for the festival.
The mob storming the fence did not have tickets, which cost about $400 for general admission. The guard had been posted to the fence and may have been trying to hold the unruly crowd back when she was overrun, said Miami Fire-Rescue spokesman Ignatius Carroll.
Mack also suffered a broken leg and was seen with blood coming out of her ears as paramedics treated her at the scene.
Security along the perimeter has been a perennial concern at the event, which opened its gates Friday to the public at about 4 p.m.. According to law enforcement sources, two hours before the gates opened, police broadcast on the radio that additional fencing was needed at the same spot where the guard was ultimately trampled.
None was put up.
The breach happened at a spot of chain-link fences at Southeast First Street and Biscayne Boulevard. At the time, the zone did not feature sturdier, unclimbable portable fencing in use in other areas around the festival.
Miami’s homicide unit, which investigates all non-fatal attacks and deaths, is now looking for witnesses to the incident, said Miami police spokesman Delrish Moss. No one has been charged in connection to Mack’s trampling.
The event brings in million in tourist revenue and helps pay for the Bayfront Park Trust, which maintained the venue.
The president of Miami’s police union, Javier Ortiz, said he had complained to the city about a shortage of police officers at Ultra. Festival organizers pay the trust, which in turn supplies fencing, security guards and uniformed police officers.
“Civilians do not have the training, experience or authority to handle, for the most part, a crowd of intoxicated people who have zero regard for human life,” Ortiz said. “The poor woman who was injured was put into a dangerous position, left to fend for herself against an overwhelming crush of people.”
On Friday night and early Saturday, police arrested 22 people. Of those, 15 people were arrested on felony charges Friday, according to Miami Police. Six more people were arrested on misdemeanor charges, while one more person was arrested for a traffic violation.
The police department did not detail the exact charges for those people arrested.
Last year, Miami police arrested 167 people during the festival, mostly for drugs and trying to enter the event without paying.