Fred Durst Tells Aussie Court He Warned Fest Promoter

By | June 18, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Fred Durst reiterated claims of inadequate security on Monday during a hearing looking into the death of a 15-year-old concertgoer last year.

From Los Angeles, the Limp Bizkit frontman spoke via videolink to the Glebe Coroner’s Court in Sydney, Australia, according to his manager, Peter Katsis. He claimed to have warned organizers of the touring Big Day Out festival of potential security problems at the Sydney stop, which took place January 26, 2001, and threatened to withdraw from the show if they weren’t remedied, following a similar crowd-crushing incident that occurred days prior in Auckland, New Zealand.

“We definitely said that if they do not fix security we would not play,” Durst told the court.

He also testified that he voiced his concerns to the concert’s promoter, Vivian Lees. “I just hope the security’s better at the next show because that (Auckland) was a little out of hand.”

Durst’s testimony, which lasted for more than six hours, was on par with those of other witnesses who sided with the band on what has become a finger-pointing dispute between organizers and security staff, and the band and its management. The former is accusing the band of not doing more from the stage to stymie the crowd surge that led to Jessica Michalik’s death. Meanwhile, as evidenced by Durst’s testimony, the Limp Bizkit camp believes the administration, not the artists, should shoulder the blame for the tragedy.

During a cross-examination, Big Day Out attorneys attempted to pin the blame on Bizkit because the music didn’t completely stop when the group was alerted to the incident; although the guitars, drums and bass ceased, DJ Lethal played a soft, computer-generated loop. While saying that Lethal took it upon himself to play the interlude, Durst verified that the quiet melody did have a soothing effect on the crowd.

Katsis is scheduled to testify on Tuesday, followed by accounts from Lees, Ken West and other organizers.

The coroner’s inquest began in November and has rested twice before resuming June 6 with witness testimony from Chris Gratton, part of Bizkit’s tour management team. Durst’s mediated testimony came after much debate over whether he needed to appear in the coroner’s court in person, requiring a trip to Australia that his schedule didn’t allow, according to his manager, who added that Durst is an apprehensive flier who doesn’t like to travel unnecessarily (see “Limp Bizkit Fan Death Inquest Rests; Durst Testimony Allowed”).

Previous accounts of the melee have been given by security consultants, promoters and others from the band’s management camp.

Durst rounded out Monday’s testimony by expressing sorrow for the circumstances surrounding the death of Michalik, who, after being revived following a heart attack, died in a hospital five days later.

“It was so overwhelming that a young girl came to see her favorite band and left in a coma and died,” he said. “I’m very emotional right now talking about it. It’s taken me a long time to talk about this.”

Upon completion of the inquiry, coroner Jacqueline Milledge can recommend that criminal charges be filed against the negligent parties, but prosecutors do not have to act on the recommendations.

In July, Australian police questioned Durst about his involvement in the Big Day Out incident but didn’t conclude that his replies were sufficient to warrant arrest.

The inquest is scheduled to conclude June 25.

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