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Rotella speaks out on Beyond Wonderland tragedy

The Insomniac CEO has explained why night one of the US electronic music festival continued amid the deadly shooting

By James Hanley on 20 Jun 2023

Pasquale Rotella


Insomniac CEO Pasquale Rotella says he is “at a loss to comprehend” the deadly shooting at the promoter’s Beyond Wonderland at The Gorge festival.

Two people were killed and three others hurt in a shooting in the camping area of the US electronic music festival near George, Washington State, on Saturday (17 June) evening.

The suspected gunman, who police say began shooting “randomly” into a crowd at the campsite, was eventually captured and taken into custody.

“On behalf of the entire Insomniac family, we extend our heartfelt thoughts and condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of the victims,” says Rotella in a statement posted to Instagram. “The loss of two lives, as well as the injuries sustained by others, is an incredibly heartbreaking tragedy.”

“It is our understanding that the incident stemmed from an isolated situation that escalated”

Rotella went on to provide an update on the incident based on the information currently available.

“We know that the shooting took place in the furthest campground from The Gorge Amphitheatre, which is designated for overflow camping and located a half mile outside the perimeter of the main festival grounds,” he says. “It is our understanding that the incident stemmed from an isolated situation that escalated, leading the assailant to flee the area. An officer-involved shooting then occurred to neutralise the threat.

“The Gorge has been successfully hosting events for decades. The circumstances of how and why this incident occurred are under investigation.”

Information about shooting victims and the suspect has not been released amid the ongoing investigation. But while the sold-out festival’s second day was called off in the wake of the tragedy, Rotella addresses why its first day was not curtailed.

“Many have questioned why the festival continued during and after the incident”

“Many have questioned why the festival continued during and after the incident,” he says. “We made the decision to keep the festival open at the request of law enforcement once it became evident that there was no ongoing threat to the safety of attendees.

“This was also done to ensure that the majority of attendees stayed away from the campground area where the incident took place. Our staff worked in close coordination with local authorities to secure the area, while also preserving it for investigators to conduct their work in a smaller, isolated section.”

He adds: “This tragedy has deeply affected me. As the organiser of this event, my intention has always been to bring people together and celebrate our shared love for music and community. I am at a loss to comprehend how individuals can commit such heinous acts.

“Throughout 30 years of organising events, we have brought together millions of people without any incidents of this nature. I hold a profound love for our community and deeply value the principles that define our culture. This incident stands in stark contrast to everything we stand for – it goes against the spirit of unity, love and respect that we strive to foster within our community.”

“Everyone on site plays an important role in our safety”

Meanwhile, security at this weekend’s Electric Forest festival is being stepped up in response to the shooting. The event, which is co-produced by Insomniac and Madison House Presents, is being held at the Double JJ Resort in Rothbury, Michigan, from 22-25 June.

“We want to reassure you that HQ works year-round with large-scale event security professionals including Michigan State Police, and local law enforcement agencies, and FBI, to provide a safe environment for our patrons, staff, and artists,” tweets the festival. “We have been in detailed discussions with these teams over the last 24hrs for increased safety oversight and protocols. This presence will be visible to all attendees throughout the festival site and campgrounds.

“In addition, we will have specialised Festival K9 Units on site. These highly trained dogs and their skilled handlers have undergone rigorous training in firearm detection amidst a large crowd and in challenging environmental conditions. Everyone on site plays an important role in our safety. We support the importance of the mantra ‘See something, say something’.”

 


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