(CN) – Better event planning could have saved the life of a 20-year-old woman who died beneath the weight of a pickup truck that careened off the campground for a West Virginia music festival and crashed into the tent where she was sleeping, family and friends of the woman claim in federal court.
Nicole Faris Miller and two friends, Yen Ton and Rosie Doran, were attending the 2011 All Good Festival this past July, on top of Marvin’s Mountaintop in Masontown, W.Va.
Miller’s father, Kim Miller, and her friend, Ton, filed separate federal complaints last week for punitive damages.
They say campground managers and security had directed the group to “place and set up their tent at the bottom of a steep, grass-covered hill.”
But organizers had also allegedly directed attendees to park their vehicles at the top of that same hill. They instructed drivers to go up the steep slope “and to continue driving until they lost traction on the slope and then park at the spot at which they could no longer maintain traction,” according to the complaints.
Because the festival was packed with more than 19,500 tickets sold, attendees allegedly had to place their cars and tents close together.
This proximity and the fresh dew on the steep, grassy slope made it difficult for one festivalgoer, Clay Harlin Lewin, to leave on the morning of July 17, according to the complaints.
“Lewin’s vehicle lost traction on the wet grass,” and the GMC pickup “began to slide down the steep hill toward the vehicles and tents previously placed below by the other defendants,” the complaints say.
“While Lewin’s vehicle was sliding down the slope, out of control, it careened into two other vehicles and then into an unoccupied tent near plaintiff’s decedent’s tent,” Miller’s father claims. “Defendant Lewin’s vehicle then crashed with great force into Ms. Miller’s tent, which was occupied by her, Yen Ton, and Rosie Foran, all of whom were asleep at the time.”
“Defendant Lewin’s vehicle came to rest on top of Ms. Miller as she was trapped in the tent with her friends,” the suit also states. “Because defendant Lewin’s vehicle was on top of Ms. Miller’s chest, she could not breathe. Although she was initially conscious, Ms. Miller slowly and painfully asphyxiated due to the weight of and compression from the vehicle and, thereafter, died due to the injuries she received before she could be removed from beneath defendant Lewin’s vehicle.”
Miller and Ton say the festival organizers “were all aware of, or should have been aware of, the hazards and foreseeable dangers presented by having attendees park their vehicles in close proximity to tents on steep, grass-covered slopes and rugged terrain at the All Good Festival.”
Ton’s complaint says the accident crushed her arm and that being forced to watch her friend die in front of her caused her several emotional distress.
News outlets reported that Miller’s death was the first fatality in the festival’s 15-year history. The lineup at the 2011 All Good Festival included the band Furthur, an act founded by the former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, as well as Primus, Pretty Lights, Umphrey’s McGee and Galactic.
Defendants named in the lawsuit are Lewin, Walther Productions dba All Good Festival, All Good Festival, Tim Walther, Junipa Contento, Marvin Huggins, James Carrico, Marvin’s Mountaintop, M & M Parking, Event Staffing, National Event Services and Axis Security.J. Michael Benninger of Morgantown, W.Va., represents both plaintiffs, who are alleging wrongful death and negligence.