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"Freak Accident" At Holiday Injures Sundance Attendees

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire January 25, 1999 at 2:0AM

"Freak Accident" At Holiday Injures Sundance Attendees
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"Freak Accident" At Holiday Injures Sundance Attendees

by Mark J. Huisman



Three Sundance Film Festival patrons were injured Tuesday night in an accident at the Holiday Village Cinemas. A piece of ventilation duct fell from its mooring and landed on two rows of seats directly below the projection booth. The most badly injured patron was a man with a half-inch bleeding cut on his forehead. Park City paramedics removed that patron on a stretcher and took him to a local clinic where he was treated and later released. Two other patrons, man who did not appear to have physical injuries and a woman who was visibly distraught were examined by paramedics and released at the theater.

In a prepared statement released yesterday, Sundance Media Executive Manager R.J. Millard said, "The building was inspected and approved following the incident last night by Park City fire officials and the screening was completed."

The film being shown was Chris Smith's "American Movie." After Rolf Gibbs' short, "The Last Guy to Let You Down," Smith introduced his film and the lights went down. Then the duct fell, landing on patrons below. A scuffle broke out in the dark, accompanied by shouts of "Bring up the lights!" and "Call 911!"

Several audience members rushed to aid others trapped underneath the duct, raising it and holding it in the air. Theater staffers rushed between the lobby to the theater, repeatedly shouting into their headsets. Patrons passed the duct toward the aisle and handed it to a theater staffer, who took it into the lobby.

Kurt Simister of the Park City Buildings Department, conducted a visual examination of Holiday Village Cinemas after learning about the accident this morning. Simister conducted a full inspection of all three theaters this afternoon with the festival's cooperation.

"Officials re-inspected the building and approved the facility," he said. "Screenings are proceeding as scheduled."

Simister said "the freak accident" that occurred in part because the duct work had been in place for twenty years. He believes the tape securing the duct came loose and caused the fall, an event that "could not have been foreseen."

"This particular piece [contained] a grill," Simister continued. "That's probably what injured the patrons." Simister also said tape was not sufficient to hold the duct in place and found similar conditions with another duct in another Holiday Village theater.

"The second theater has the same condition," he told indieWIRE. "There is supposed to be belting around the front, but there was not." Simister instructed the theater manager to belt the duct temporarily and ordered it permanently fixed after the festival closes.