Police have launched an investigation after a man was run over by a car while sleeping in his tent at the Victorian leg of Falls Festival in Lorne on New Year’s Day.
Geelong plumber Andrew Pepper has told the ABC that he felt trapped and could hear people screaming when he woke up on Tuesday, 1st January, after sleeping in a hillside campsite which he described as “dangerous”.
The 24-year-old was reportedly sleeping on his stomach in his tent when a man attempting to leave the festival in his car lost control on the steep hill and ran over two tents, coming to a stop on top of Mr Pepper.
Mr Pepper was eventually pulled free of the car by friends, before being treated by paramedics. He was left with a fractured vertebra and tyre marks on his back, and has undergone an MRI scan to check if he has any bleeding on his brain.
“We knew it was dangerous and the proof’s in the pudding now, isn’t it?” Pepper told the ABC.
“The paramedics have said the only reason I’m still alive is because I was on my stomach. They said if I was on my back and the car had have gone over my chest it would have been a whole different story.”
Some of Mr Pepper’s friends narrowly avoided being crushed by the car, and want festival organisers to do more to improve safety.
Geelong woman Rebecca Dickson took to Facebook on Sunday to say that Mr Pepper and his friends had complained to festival representatives that the camping area they were allocated would be dangerous.
“Upon entering the festival we were placed down an extremely steep hill in which we complained some of the cars would have a lot of trouble getting out of and would be dangerous. We were told there’s no two ways about it and it was fine,” she said.
“The car was trying to leave the festival and slid down on an angle due to how steep the hill was, as well as the fact that half the cars on the hill had drove in from one direction and half from the other, meaning he had to try turn his car around as he was facing us, which caused the slide.
“You pay $450 for a ticket, you should at least expect a safe campsite. If you don’t have room to provide the numbers of tickets sold this year with safe campsites, then don’t keep selling tickets and cramming people onto steep hills and valleys, it’s clear the organisers didn’t think it was safe either, as they moved the remainder of the cars in our area out themselves or towed them using a tractor.”
Victoria Police has confirmed to Music Feeds that it is investigating the incident.
In a statement, Falls Festival said it was “saddened” to hear of Mr Pepper’s injuries.
“Event medical staff, police and detectives were called to the scene immediately following the incident, and the driver of the car was interviewed, swabbed and breath tested on site,” the festival said.
“Falls has multiple levels of safety checks that go into the planning of the event.
“We have experienced event staff who assist with parking cars on site. For risk mitigation purposes we park cars parallel, nose to tail to prevent any potential unforeseen vehicular movements.
“The safety of our patrons is paramount, and we will be assessing this incident and review as part of our ongoing risk management process, as we strive for continual improvement.”
Mr Pepper and his friends have called for changes to be made to improve safety at the festival.
“We think as a group there has to be a change made, especially to those hills,” he told the ABC.
“At a minimum, you probably have to make camping separated to car parking, especially on hills.”
You can read Rebecca Dickson’s Facebook post, which includes photos of Mr Pepper’s injuries, below.
Falls Festival held its annual events in Lorne, Marion Bay, Byron Bay and Fremantle over the New Year’s period, with performances from the likes of Anderson .Paak, Interpol, CHVRCHES and Catfish & The Bottlemen.