The lead singer of US punk rock band Green Day, Billie Joe Armstrong, has issued a statement on Instagram in the wake of the death of an acrobat at the Mad Cool festival in the Spanish capital on Friday night. Pedro Aunión died after falling from a cage suspended 30 meters in the air by a crane during a performance which took place just before the US band was due to come on stage.
“If we had known prior to our performance we most likely would not have played at all. We are not heartless people,” said the singer in the statement. The band had been criticized in some quarters for their decision to play after the fatal accident on the second day of the three-day festival, now in its second year.
“We didn't even know there was an acrobat performance at all. These festivals are huge,” the statement continued.” We were warming up ready to go at 11.25pm. Fifteen minutes prior our tour management was told by local authorities to wait to go on stage because there was some sort of security issue. Security issues are a normal occurrence and procedure at any show. We were NOT told why which is also normal,” Armstrong added.
The veteran band, one of the headliners at the huge Mad Cool festival, was not informed of the death of the acrobat until after their show. “We got off stage and drove back to our artist compound. It was there when we were told the shocking news about Pedro. All of us were in disbelief. I don’t know why the authorities chose not to tell us about the accident before our concert,” Armstrong said on Instagram.
The singer also said the band was “heartbroken” for the “friends and family” of the acrobat and that they were also “shocked and heartbroken for anyone that had to witness this tragedy”.
We didn't even know there was an acrobat performance at all Billie Joe Armstrong, Green Day lead singer
The accident on Friday left behind it sadness, confusion, criticism, indignation and a police investigation. Officers from the Judicial Police have already begun to analyze videos of the incident that ended the life of Pedro Aunión, who was from Madrid, and are trying to establish the causes behind the failure of the safety harness he was wearing.
After the accident, police attended the scene where the incident took place, just a few meters from the main stage at the Caja Mágica site, and interviewed members of the festival’s organization team and the members of the crew who were on the stage when Aunión fell to his death. One of the main points of the investigation will be to establish whether the safety equipment failed or whether the acrobat had not properly fastened his harness.
The organizers of Mad Cool released a brief statement in the early hours of July 8, more than four hours after the performer had died. It read: “Mad Cool Festival regrets the terrible accident that the aerial dancer suffered during the second day of the festival. For reasons of safety, the festival decided to continue with its program. We send our sincere condolences to all of his family. Tomorrow, on Saturday 8, during the festival, we will pay a heartfelt homage to the artist.”
The organizers told EL PAÍS that they were “working 100% with the police to establish what had happened,” and that they were due to meet to decide how to approach the last day of the festival, on Saturday. Later that day they released a longer press statement, explaining, among other things, that they decided not to cancel the event in order not to cause panic among attendees.
As a protest at the festival’s decision to continue with the event, a state union representing musicians, performers and composers called a demonstration at the main entrance to the festival in Madrid, as a tribute to Pedro Aunión. “No more mortal accidents. Security and dignified conditions now,” was the message of the protest, which attracted 50 or so people, who shouted: “The price of your ticket is not worth a life.”
David García, one of the union representatives at the protest, said that while there would always be accidents, Mad Cool should have released more information earlier to the bands playing at the event and the public. “We hope that they will give us information about how the investigation is progressing,” added Luis Ventín, from an actors’ union. “Our precarious [working conditions] means that we have a dangerous job.”
Pedro Aunión had arrived from the United Kingdom, where he was living, on June 26 to rehearse for his performances at Mad Cool. He was living in Brighton, in the south of the country, and was due to return on July 11. As well as being an acrobat, he had also studied Spanish dance, dramatic arts and contemporary dance. Since 2003, he had run his own company, Ciadehecho, an experimental group combining theatre, dance and acrobatics.
Many of the victim’s friends expressed their devastation about his death via social networks, in particular after seeing one of his last messages on Facebook, where he expressed his happiness to return to his native Madrid, and also stating that he was looking forward to seeing his boyfriend, who was in the UK.
Those who knew Aunión doubted that the accident was due to a mistake made by the acrobat, given that he was “particularly vigilant” when it came to safety, and would check several times that everything was working correctly and that there was no risk for the participants.