"He's got a gun! Gun!" "As soon as I heard gun shots, everyone started bolting and we nearly got trampled by the frantic herds of people." "I saw a man lying on the floor in his own blood. It could have been me." "...There was another man dead on the street, so everyone started running for their lives." "So surreal being in the middle of it all." "I can't believe what I just witnessed..."
These are just some of the reactions of party-goers who experienced a fatal shooting and stampede at the popular BPM Festival in Playa del Carmen, Mexico on January 16, 2017. The tragedy, which claimed the lives of five people and physically injured more than a dozen others, took place on the closing night of the festival at a party whose title, "This is the End," took on a dark new meaning.
In this blog post, we review what we know about the circumstances behind the shooting, the types of injuries that were sustained, and what you can do if you were injured and/or a witness to what occurred.
From Joy to Despair and Disbelief
Before there was "chaos on the streets of Playa del Carmen," there was revelry on the dancefloors of this beautiful tourist town. The BPM Festival drew about 70,000 attendees to more than 80 events during its 10th anniversary celebrations. This festival is particularly popular for the Canadian electronic dance music crowd.
On the last night of the festival at one of the closing parties at the Blue Parrot, people in the vicinity heard what initially sounded like firecrackers at about 2:30 a.m. A lone gunman reportedly starting firing a gun into the club. The bullets struck multiple people, killing four, including some security guards, one of whom was Canadian and attempted to stop the gunman. Some attendees dropped to the floor to avoid the gunfire, but soon many people in the club rushed to the exits and headed to the streets and beaches in an attempt to get away, creating a crushing stampede that resulted in the death of one person and injured many others.
Local police have focused their investigation on whether the shooting was related to extortion, drug dealing, or a targeted execution. Meanwhile, families and friends have been mourning the loss of their loved ones, whiles festival attendees recover from their physical injuries and deal with the intense psychological issues that can result from experiencing such trauma.
It is common for people who have witnessed shootings and stampedes in crowded places to describe feeling as though what they experienced was like watching a movie. They may even be stunned into silence as they are simply in disbelief of what has just occurred around them. Our bodies and minds can only handle so much stimuli before they become overloaded. Disassociating themselves from an unfolding traumatic event can help people they channel their energy into instinctively trying to survive – shock sets in.
As time goes on and the mind begins the process of trying make sense of what was seen, heard, sensed and felt, troubling mental, emotional and physical symptoms can emerge. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious condition that can develop days, weeks, and even months or years after such an incident.
If you were present in Playa del Carmen as this shooting unfolded and witnessed it or the crowd reaction, you should consider seeking medical attention if you experience signs of PTSD. These can include:
- re-occurring, unwanted and distressing memories, flashback sensations, and/or vivid and upsetting dreams about the event;
- emotional or physical reactions to things that remind you of the event and may cause you to avoid thinking, talking or being around people or places that remind you of the event;
- depression, negative thinking, feeling numb, irritability, guilt, anxiety (being on guard for danger), being easily startled;
- trouble with memories, concentrating or focusing;
- engaging in destructive behaviour such as excessive drinking and drug use as coping mechanisms.
Even if you were not physically injured at this event, you may bear mental or emotional scars from what you witnessed. Fortunately, there are many treatments medical professionals can recommend to help you manage symptoms of PTSD and assist with your recovery.
Seeking Justice and Helping Others Find Justice
HSH lawyers are currently representing a BPM Festival victim who sustained a gunshot wound during this tragic incident and we are seeking to hear from other people who attended the festival. If you have information that could assist with this case, or if you sustained physical injuries (gunshot wounds, trauma from the resulting stampede) or have since developed symptoms of PTSD you believe may be linked to what you witnessed, please contact us.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.