Limp Bizkit, and particularly singer Fred Durst, came under fire this week on the first day of the inquest into the death of 16-year-old Jessica Michalik, who was crushed in a crowd surge at the Sydney stop on the annual Big Day Out tour last Jan. 26. Coroner Jacqueline Milledge announced she was not impressed with Durst, who refused to answer questions from Australian police officers when they questioned him in Los Angeles.
Instead, the singer faxed an unsigned list of answers to them. Milledge pointed out that Durst’s comments would have been invaluable in finding out how the girl died, as he may have had a view from the stage.
The Glebe Coroners Court watched footage from Channel [V] Australia, which showed the crowd moving to the front of the stage. Some people fell to the ground, and security guards leaped in to pull them up, while signaling for the band to stop playing.
Durst is heard telling the crowd, “Looks like a little problem right down here in front. I told them before we came, ‘When Limp Bizkit and 60,000 Aussies [are] in one f*** place, this place is gonna go crazy.'” He added, “If you see somebody fall down, you gotta make sure you pick ’em up.” After an eight-minute delay, the band resumed playing. Michalik never gained consciousness and died in Concord Hospital five days later.
The officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Inspector Greg Bamford, described her death as “a tragic accident,” and attributed it to a number of factors. These included excessive crowd movement, Bizkit’s high energy performance, hot weather, an aggressive environment in the moshpit, the inability to get to Michalik, the delay in removing her from the moshpit, and the lack of proven science on which crowd barriers were most effective.
At the Auckland Big Day Out show a few days earlier, there were similar problems during Limp Bizkit’s set, when 12 people were injured in a crush. Bamford stressed that his investigation had not proven there was criminal negligence on the part of anyone.
In his written statement, Durst blamed promoters Creative Entertainment and their security arrangements. He said he had asked for a T-barricade to break up the crowd, and told co-promoter Vivian Lees before the show that, “In my opinion, the whole event was completely unsafe and his security was completely inadequate. I told him we had never done a big show without some type of second barricade.”
But Big Day Out personnel say Bizkit has to shoulder some of the blame. Creative Entertainment’s Mark Dean told the court “the response of Limp Bizkit to directions from security personnel” as well as “the difficult weather conditions on the day” added to the tragedy.
Peter Rozen of Big Day Out security firm Australian Event Protection said, “The security officer that entered the moshpit did so under volatile conditions, and while being publicly mocked and most unfairly criticized by the band in a manner that … frustrated their efforts to save lives.”
The court was also played a video where Durst claimed to the TV show Access Hollywood that he had visited Michalik in Concord Hospital. “A few days later she died; she never came to,” he said. Detective Bamford said that to his knowledge, the visit never took place.