A man who was run over by a car while sleeping in his tent at Falls Festival in Lorne on New Year’s Day says he initially refused to camp at the spot because he feared it was too dangerous.
- The man suffered a fractured vertebra and is waiting on further scans to check for bleeding on his brain
- Paramedics told the man he only survived because he was lying on his stomach, not his back
- Falls Festival organisers say they run safety checks on sites and are “saddened” by the incident
Andrew Pepper, a 24-year-old plumber who lives in Geelong, said his group of friends was worried about cars being parked alongside tents on a steep hill in wet weather.
“My friend Kyle was the first car in our convoy and he stopped traffic and said ‘we’re not camping there’,” Mr Pepper said.
“But then he had all the people backing up in cars and Falls organisers coming and saying ‘mate, you get put where you get put’.
“We went there, we didn’t want to, we knew it was dangerous and the proof’s in the pudding now, isn’t it?”
Mr Pepper said he had no idea what had happened when he woke up on New Year’s Day to the sounds of people screaming and a feeling of being trapped.
He had been sleeping on his stomach when a car came to a halt on top of him. He had tyre marks on his back, and dipped in and out of consciousness.
“My girlfriend took a photo of my back and said, ‘you’ve been run over’ and showed me the photo,” Mr Pepper said.
He said he suffered a fractured vertebra and is waiting on an MRI scan to investigate possible bleeding on his brain.
“The paramedics have said the only reason I’m still alive is because I was on my stomach,” he said.
“They said if I was on my back and the car had have gone over my chest it would have been a whole different story.”
Friend thought ‘he’s going to be dead’
Mr Pepper’s friend, 21-year-old Prue Brunt, said she narrowly escaped being crushed by the car.
“I remember getting out and looking around and hearing his girlfriend screaming ‘someone’s in there, someone’s in there’,” she said.
“The car was over the top of the tent and we could just see his legs sticking out from under the car. I remember thinking, ‘he’s going to be dead’.”
Moments before Mr Pepper was run over, Ms Brunt had fled from her tent after she heard a car motor and part of the tent’s fabric starting to collapse.
A group of her male friends started trying to lift the car off their trapped friend. The car’s driver, a young man, had been trying to make his way out of the camp site when his vehicle slipped.
“Luckily those boys were able to pull him from underneath the car and get him out while the car was trying to reverse, but it couldn’t because the wheels were just spinning,” Ms Brunt said.
‘There has to be a change made’
Mr Pepper and his friends have been so disappointed by the way the festival handled the issue they decided to air their concerns publicly.
“They didn’t reply to any messages, they brushed us off. Some of our parents were messaging Falls and they were getting nothing,” he said.
“We think as a group there has to be a change made, especially to those hills.
“At a minimum, you probably have to make camping separated to car parking, especially on hills.”
Police investigating and Falls organisers ‘saddened’ by incident
Falls Festival released a statement saying it was “saddened” to hear that Mr Pepper was injured as patrons were leaving the event site.
“We have multiple levels of safety checks that go into the planning of the event site,” the statement said.
“We have experienced event staff who park cars on site, to ensure they are parked on safe angles and for risk mitigation purposes we park cars nose to tail to prevent movement.”
“Police were engaged onsite as soon as the incident occurred and the patron was handed to our medical team.
“Due to the nature of police matters, and the privacy laws, we are not privy to information regarding the patron’s wellbeing post-incident unless they contact us directly.”