TD Garden officials said today they tripled the number of ambulances they normally have on hand for a concert and added extra security guards and other staffers to deal with what they knew could be an onslaught of pre-gamed ticketholders streaming in for a June 25 concert by the Swedish EDM DJ.
But just as Avicii was taking the stage around 9:30 p.m., city EMS officials were declaring a "mass casualty event" to deal with what turned out to be 86 chemically impaired concertgoers, 36 of whom were impaired enough to require transportation to Mass. General and some as young as 16. The Garden sold more than 11,000 tickets for the concert.
At a hearing today, Garden General Manager Hugh Lombardi and Director of Public Safety James Mayall told Patricia Malone, the city's commissioner of consumer affairs and licensing, that their system worked: The bulk of the people who needed treatment were stopped in line before they ever got into the Garden - or, in two cases, on a platform at the North Station T stop. And all of the 36 people were transported by private ambulances, not city ones, they said.
But BPD Sgt. Det. Robert Mulvey, who agreed the bulk of the victims appeared to have ingested something before arriving, said the mass-casualty declaration meant city EMTs rushed to the scene, which "had an impact on the city's ability to respond" to other potential emergencies elsewhere in the city. He said the city even rolled in a large mobile treatment van, normally stored in Jamaica Plain. It was the first time a concert has ever required the van, he said.
The two Garden officials said they were quite aware of Avicii's reputation for attracting the sort of people who might ingest more chemicals than they should beforehand - they had talked to their counterparts at other venues that have had to deal with drug and alcohol problems at his concerts.
Because of that, they said, they had six ambulances on call, compared to the two they would have for a somebody with more sedate fans, like Katy Perry. They said they had 40 extra guards on hand to pat down ticket holders for things such as flasks and pacifiers and Vicks Vapor inhalers - used to bring in drugs. Inside, the Garden had fewer beer stands open than usual, limited customers to just one drink and stopped serving altogether a half hour before the show was due to begin, they said.
Mulvey said that when he arrived at the Garden around 9:30 p.m., he found many people well beyond simple intoxication. "There were very young people that were incoherent; they couldn't keep their heads up," he said, adding their age ranged between 16 and 25.
Mulvey said many of the people being treated appeared to possibly be under the influence of a combination of both alcohol and other drugs, although he said he personally did not investigate what those drugs might be.
Mulvey and Malone said the Avicii concert and another EDM show at the House of Blues, at which one person died from an apparent molly overdose, mean Boston concert halls need to be extra vigilant when booking EDM acts.
Malone suggested reconsidering all-age EDM shows and said that, in the case of the Garden, officials should consider fewer general-admission floor tickets, given the propensity of EDM fans to "jump up and down."
Malone took no action today, but will issue a decision at some point on whether the incident merits punishing the Garden by suspending its entertainment license for a set number of days. Because the Garden has a liquor license, it may also face a hearing and action by the separate Boston Licensing Board.