<p>Thousands turned out for President Trump‘s campaign rally in Omaha, Nebraska’s Eppley Airfield Tuesday night. But once the commander-in-chief left on Air Force One around 9 p.m. CST, hundreds of his supporters who had been flown for the event were stranded in near-freezing temperatures nearly four miles from their cars.
The crowds did not clear completely until after midnight, three hours later. And during that time, photos and videos of people lined up in the cold lit up Twitter, drawing comparisons to another failed epic event: the 2017 Fyre Festival.
Fyre Fest was the Bahamian retreat backed by Ja Rule and billed as a luxury Coachella in the Caribbean, but it turned into a firestorm in late April 2017 after hundreds of ticket holders hoping for an experience of luxury on a private island they arrived to find FEMA-soaked tents at a construction site that was serving what looked like a plain Kraft placed on two white toast. Many were stranded after charter flights to and from the island were canceled.
Related: Netflix’s ‘Fyre’ Offers A Front Row Seat To Fyre Fest’s Epic Failure
In Omaha, reporters estimated that a crowd of more than 6,000 had gathered in the stands outside the airport for Tuesday night’s rally; organizers put the figure at 29,000. Local police warned shortly after 7 pm that parking lots were full and that shuttles had stopped transporting people to the event. Hundreds of people were late to get in, according to the liberal news site Iowa Starting Line.
And they were also late to leave. Once the president exited, lines of people waited for transportation back to the parking lot as temperatures dropped to 30 degrees.
Reporters on the ground in Nebraska from CNN and the Omaha World-Herald reported that at least seven people were taken to the hospital, though the Omaha Scanner, a Twitter account that monitors traffic from local emergency scanners, said officials they would count exactly on Wednesday. The Omaha Police Department confirmed to MarketWatch that seven people were transported to area hospitals, and there were 30 people contacted by doctors throughout the rally, not just at the end of the rally.
The World-Herald observed two people getting help from Omaha police, including an elderly woman warming herself in the back of a police patrol car and a boy who was given a blanket.
CNN correspondent Jeff Zeleny described the situation as a “chaotic cluster” and quoted an Omaha official as saying “we need at least 30 more buses.”
Some people started walking from the Eppley Airfield site to the nearest parking lots to get to their cars; the closest was 2.5 miles away, about 3.7 miles away. The Omaha Police Department told MarketWatch that many people underestimated the distance from the event to the parking lot on foot, with officers helping the elderly and infirm who tried to make the walk.
“The agents who pick up people who wander in the cold cannot locate their vehicles and take them to various parking lots”, omaha scanner tweeted. The account also shared reports of people who received medical attention from the police, such as “an elderly person who is frozen from the cold and cannot move with an altered mental state” and “4 patients treated for cold exposure.”
Trump officials initially told World-Herald reporter Aaron Sanderford that they had a lot of buses to get people out; the problem was that the traffic flow was reduced because the small two-lane airport access road was limited to one direction. Additionally, Omaha police officers told MarketWatch that the crowds of people walking back to parking lots also slowed bus traffic and further delayed bus trips “considerably.”
Samantha Zager, undersecretary of national press for the Trump campaign, told MarketWatch that rally organizers had deployed 40 shuttle buses instead of the normal 15 for the event, but local road closures and resulting congestion caused the delays. . He also said that there were dozens, heaters, generators, hot chocolate, and hand warmers available for guests at the departure location. “We always strive to provide the best guest experience at our events and we care about their safety,” he said. “President Trump loves his supporters and was delighted to visit Omaha last night. Despite the cold, tens of thousands of people attended his rally. ”
The last person was loaded onto a bus from the rally site around 11:50 p.m., Omaha police told MarketWatch, and vehicle and pedestrian traffic returned to normal around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. Officers also continued to help attendees find their cars for some time afterward.
Images of stranded Trump supporters went viral on Twitter TWTR, down -5.41% overnight, leading to the #omahastranded hashtag trending through Wednesday morning. Many critics called it “Trump’s Fyre Fest”, with a user using the president’s “apprentice” catchphrase asking, “Can we officially call this rally the ‘You’re Fyred Fest’? For example, not planning basic logistics was one of the main problems at Fyre Fest. ”
Nebraska Democratic Senator Megan Hunt tweeted that Trump “really doesn’t care” about his base. “Supporters of the president were brought in, but the buses could not return to transport people. It’s very cold and snowy in Omaha tonight, ”he wrote. “He doesn’t really care about you.”
Aside from potential hypothermia, critics also called the rally a “super spread event” for the coronavirus, especially after looking at photographs of thousands of huddled attendees, many of whom were not wearing face masks. A recent analysis by USA Today reports that five counties that held Trump rallies saw COVID-19 cases spike afterward.
But at least one Trump supporter, who volunteered at the rally, disagreed with the criticism. Kris Beckenbach of Lincoln, Neb., Told the World-Herald that while everyone was “cold and tired” as they waited to leave Tuesday’s rally, he did not blame the organizers. “How do you practice for that?” he asked, referring to the thousands of people who showed up.
What’s more, he said he would do it again. “I would get up early and stay there all those hours. It was an adventure. It was absolutely an adventure. “