‘No chance at a warning’ says BVJ visitor

Jake Begin won’t soon forget his first trip to the Big Valley Jamboree.

A devastating thunderstorm rolls into the site of the Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose on Saturday.

A devastating thunderstorm rolls into the site of the Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose on Saturday.

Jake Begin won’t soon forget his first trip to the Big Valley Jamboree.

Sitting five rows from the front of the main concert stage on Saturday, Begin was shocked to see the stage collapsing amid screams and scenes of panic from most people around him.

“The wind and the storm hit so suddenly there was no chance at a warning,” the 20-year-old Rocky Mountain House man said on Tuesday.

“People were turning around and rushing at us. Chairs went flying and people were being knocked over.

“It all happened so fast,” he said.

The devastating storm that smashed into the main concert stage killed one person and injured as many as 75 others. Donna Moore, 35, a marketing assistant for Lloydminster was killed when an enormous speaker fell on her.

Two people remain in hospital.

The concert bowl caved in after wild winds hit the popular annual festival in Camrose around 6 p.m. on Saturday.

“We saw the horrible dark clouds roll in quite fast and thought we should get out but then the wind struck,” said Begin.

“People were screaming all over and shouting.”

Begin said he tried to help but was told to go back by security.

“We picked up a couple of little girls who were knocked over and carried them away a little bit,” Begin said.

Thunder, lightning and heavy rain pounded the site as people tried to help those trapped and injured, Begin said. He said it appeared emergency workers responded quickly.

He said it was his first trip to the jamboree.

“I’m not really a country (music) fan but I really enjoyed it and would go back again if it’s held,” he said.

He said he retreated quickly with friends and hunkered down in a friend’s trailer while rain and hail pelted the area for about 20 minutes after the collapse.

Meanwhile, Anna Quidding, 37, a Red Deer county resident, was sitting much further back from the stage and took a few seconds for the disaster to sink in.

“We were just thinking it was maybe time to head back to our trailer because rain was coming for sure when it happened.

“There was no warning. Everything seemed to be happening in a dream,” she said.

“People were grabbing kids and some people were falling down climbing over one another.

“We just left everything we had and headed back away from the mass of humanity coming at us,” Quidding said.

Concert promoter and organizer Larry Werner said earlier that producers have had to shut down the concert three times in the last 17 years. “The procedures followed for those weather fronts were the same as the procedures followed (Saturday),” Werner said.

Neither Werner nor Camrose police could say immediately why the structure failed or how long it would take to get answers. Provincial officials are helping with the investigation.

The provincial government has ordered two separate investigations into what happened on Saturday.

Alberta Employment spokesman Chris Chodan said crews searching for survivors in the wreckage disturbed much of the evidence, which could make it difficult to come to definitive conclusions.

He said the province is requiring the concert’s promoter, Panhandle Productions, to assess what happened but that process will be under the supervision of government inspectors.

Alberta Municipal Affairs has ordered the owner of the stage to hire an independent engineer and is checking what permits were issued and whether the structure was built to code. Officials say initial reports could be ready in a month but final versions could take longer.

jwilson@bprda.wpengine.com

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