*Anisha (27), who was expecting a night of fun and entertainment as the New Year dawned, instead ended up bruised and battered when the VIP platform at a party at Hilton Colombo, with about 200 revellers collapsed just two minutes to the stroke of midnight. “I spent the first few minutes of 2014 on my [...]


High-end party revellers’ anger at insensitivity and apathy of organisers


Minutes after the stage collapsed. Pic by Indika Handuwala

*Anisha (27), who was expecting a night of fun and entertainment as the New Year dawned, instead ended up bruised and battered when the VIP platform at a party at Hilton Colombo, with about 200 revellers collapsed just two minutes to the stroke of midnight.
“I spent the first few minutes of 2014 on my hands and knees, surrounded by shattered glass and people crying in pain,” she recalled.
“ We had to carry our friend to the Stella area as she had sustained multiple fractures to her heel and was in a lot of pain. I waited with her calming her down while my other friends dashed off to get a hotel cab to rush her to hospital. I hadn’t really processed what had happened until my friend asked me to be careful of my footing as there was shards of glass all over the floor. Only when I looked down and saw a pool of blood did I realise how bad things were.”

“We hailed a cab but a Hilton staff member put a regular unhurt client into the hotel cab we flagged down, instead of my friend who really needed it.”

“We got into the first ambulance we saw and went to the Nawaloka Emergency Ward to admit my friend for a broken heel, another friend to check on burns and bruising and yet another for cuts. When we were there many others with glass cuts, fractures and burns kept coming in.

“Afterwards, my friends and I went back to the Hilton to assist more injured people. Staff/hired help just stood outside smoking cigarettes, completely oblivious to the injured around them still waiting for a way to get to hospital. We ran over to check on them and to see if we could take them to hospital. Luckily they had managed to sort out transport by then but they thanked us for coming back.”
The tickets were priced at Rs.10, 000 and above, and many guests complained that the party was poorly organised.

*Stacy (19), who was also at the party with her friends said, “I feel it was a total rip off, I’m not going to that party next year.”
“It was poorly organised, the ground wasn’t levelled and in some places the ramps were rickety. There were more than 200 people on the platform when it collapsed. The organisers didn’t even stop the party, they just stopped the music and after a while the music started again and the party went on as usual.”

Police Spokesperson SSP Ajith Rohana said, “The stage had collapsed due to the metal washers and nuts coming off. Fifteen people were injured in the incident.”

Releasing an official statement, Hotel Hilton said, “Several guests and team members were injured due to the collapse of a stage during the Cantaloupe New Year’s Eve party. The injured were assisted by the doctors and emergency teams with ambulances we had on site, and transferred to Nawaloka Hospital.”

Adding that the event organiser Cantaloupe Playground was responsible for the setup of the party in the hotel premises, the statement said, “We will co-operate with the local authorities in their investigation on this incident.”

Offering their sincere regrets to those affected by this unfortunate incident, The Hilton said, “The wellbeing, safety and security of our guests and team members are of paramount importance and we continue to make every effort to ensure that all practices and standards are in line with strict safety and security regulations.”

The Cantaloupe Facebook event page came under fire, a few hours after the incident with several angry guests demanding their money back and compensation for the injuries sustained by several revelers.

Maintaining accountability for all actions under their control and not letting down their patrons, Cantaloupe said, “We contracted a reputed company, which represented to us that it possessed the necessary expertise and experience, to set up the stage, at a cost that was considerably higher than the prices quoted by other potential suppliers of similar elevated stages. We opted to procure the services of this particular company to install the stage since we placed so much importance on quality and safety.

“As per the said company’s express representations, the elevated platform/stage (which collapsed) was built to accommodate up to a thousand people with 30 tables on it. It is pertinent to note that at the time of the unexpected collapse of the stage there were no more than 500-600 people on it. Therefore, it is clearly evident that the supplier had not constructed the said stage to the standards originally agreed with us.”

“The team at Cantaloupe did their best to manage the crisis to the best of their abilities. Things did not go as expected and again those that know us personally are aware that we would not hide from a situation such as this, the statement further said.

“There were numerous discussions between the hotel and the organisers on how best to proceed whilst we were trying to handle the evacuation without causing panic among the other 2000 or so guests who were present at the venue. We had to take a critical decision not to discontinue the proceedings in order to facilitate the evacuation of the injured persons to hospital, without causing mass scale panic and confusion among the other 2000 or so guests; which would have further hampered our efforts.

“As for the allegation of overcrowding, we stopped selling tickets one week prior to the party. We took very tough stance in our refusal to sell excess tickets unless there were cancellations. We created more space (on the car park side) in order to avoid overcrowding.
“The Directors of Cantaloupe personally spoke to as many people as we possibly could and offered to help those in need to the best of our abilities. In fact, to date we are in touch with those who suffered injuries trying our best to be of assistance to them. All medical bills (we have been made aware of) have already been settled. Further, we are currently in the process of refunding the tickets of those who were in the affected area.”

*Names changed to
protect identities

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