Stampede survivor ‘doing better every day’

A Rocklands teenager, who survived a stampede at the gates of the DStv Mitchell’s Plain Festival on Saturday December 2, is improving daily.

Darren Jacobs, 13, was found lifeless and being trampled on at the entrance of Westridge Gardens, where the ninth annual festival was held.

Mitchell’s Plain Fire and Rescue officer Jeanne-Pierre (JP) Damons found him and took him to their vehicle, where station commander for the fire and life safety education sector, Mogamat Girie, was addressing the crowd over the vehicle’s public announcement system.

“JP brought Darren to me and upon quick assessment, he was unresponsive, he did not have a pulse and his eyes were dilated,” said Mr Girie.

“I’m a parent and I would not have this boy die on me,” he said.

Mr Girie immediately started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with the help of a woman, only known as Lameez.

“I did compressions for more than five minutes on Darren,” he said.

The rescue vehicle’s echocardiogram (ECG) monitor eventually picked up a slow rhythm in Darren’s heartbeat.

St John emergency rescue service members intubated Darren and he was taken via ambulance to Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital.

Darren was then sent to Groote Schuur Hospital for a computerised tomography (CT) scan, which showed that he had no blood clots.

Inshaaf Engelbrecht, Darren’s neighbour who had taken him and seven other youth to the festival, said she dropped them after 6pm, when queues into the festival were “already long”.

Ms Engelbrecht had called her daughter, who was with the group, to ask whether she could fetch them after 11pm but was told that Darren is missing.

Darren’s friend, Lance van Niekerk, 17, who had bought a ticket, through Computicket, went through the festival gates to wait inside for his friend, who still had to buy a ticket. This is when the stampede happened. “I went to the gates and asked the officials what was going on. I went back out to look for Darren,” he said.

Lance said he asked several police and law enforcement officers, whether they had seen Darren but none had.

Provincial health department spokesperson Monique Johnstone confirmed that Darren had been involved in the stampede, was unresponsive and had needed to be resuscitated.

“He was sent to Groote Schuur Hospital for a CT brain scan, fortunately there was no damage to his brain and he was discharged on Monday December 4 from Mitchell’s Plain Hospital,” she said.

Ms Johnstone said emergency medical services (EMS) had transported 10 patients to Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre (CHC) for the treatment of soft tissue injuries.

On Monday December 11 Darren’s mother, Louise Jacobs, told the Plainsman that he was doing better every day.

“He can’t remember the incident. His right leg limps but he is doing better,” she said.

Ms Jacobs said festival founder and director, Rozario Brown, has been in regular contact with them.

Mr Brown said Darren’s recovery was “nothing short of a miracle”.

“We do everything in our power to avoid incidents and we did not anticipate the crowd behaving badly, but one positive thing that came out of this was to make us plan better,” he said.

“It was an accident,” said Mr Brown.

He confirmed that three people had approached him to help pay for their medical expenses and that he would be helping the Jacobs family where he could.

Mr Brown said one injury was one too many and that they would plan harder to ensure the next event was incident free.

He had previously told the Plainsman: “We sadly had a very small group of young men, not more than 15, hellbent on pushing and forcing their way into the premises.”

He appealed to parents to accompany their teenagers to the festival, especially at night and ensure that they did not engage in the abuse of alcohol and drugs.

Mr Brown said security had barred about seven young people entry into the festival because they smelt like alcohol and were intoxicated.

The festival is an alcohol-free event and shows zero tolerance to the abuse of drugs.

“Every plan in place to ensure festival goers’ safety depends on their co-operation with our safety and securities services,” he said.

Mr Brown said Fire and Rescue Services had given them a population certificate, which stipulates that they were prepared for any eventuality for 10 000 people at any moment. At the time of the stampede 7 000 festival goers were inside and about 3 000 were outside.

The safety and security of the event is overseen by a private security company, neighbourhood watch members, the police and various departments of the City.

The festival is the biggest of its kind on the Cape Flats.

Pensioner Abraham Fielies, from Westgate, who was at the gates at the time of the incident, told the Plainsman it was a “terrible nightmare”

“I was completely helpless. I was pushed backward and forward. I couldn’t get out of the crowd as I was completely surrounded by people, wanting anxiously to enter the festival grounds,” he said.

Mr Fielies said on the other side of of gates festival workers were trying to tell the crowd to move back but what the crowd could not understand was why they were being told to do so.

He said the festival workers did not have loud hailers which would have enabled the crowd to hear them. “In the meanwhile young people around me were panicking. I could see the fear in their eyes. This continued for 20 minutes but it felt like hours.”

People old and young fell to the ground, many of them just lay there and were trampled on, said Mr Fielies. “I was a victim, I was traumatised, when I think of Saturday I get flashbacks and it leaves me angry and disappointed,” he said. “This should never have happened. This event has been held for a number years,” he said.