Mardi Gras fatality

Scoot: Parade tragedy and parade safety

February 20, 2020 - 12:29 pm

Tragedy at a Mardi Gras parade Wednesday night has once again ignited the conversation about parade safety.

In the middle of the Krewe of Nyx parade last night, 58-year-old Geraldine Carmouche was killed after the second half of a tandem float rolled over her as she appeared to be maneuvering over the hitch between the two floats. The incident occurred before 9:00 pm as float #21 – titled “Come Away With Me” - passed by Magazine and Valence streets.

The parade was halted; and New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell announced that the remainder of the parade – floats #22 through #44 would not be rerouted, ending the back half of the parade. Still early along the parade route, those who were aboard the remaining floats disembarked. With the amount of preparations and the money spent to be part of the parade – there must have been great disappointment even if it was understood that there was really no alternative. To instantly reroute the parade would have been a logistical – and maybe even legal – nightmare.

Appreciating the degree of anticipation for each of the riders – Mayor Cantrell’s decision to halt to second half of the parade could not have been an easy decision.

Knowing what had happened earlier in the parade – as I saw part of the parade passing from my downtown apartment window - I wondered if many riders on the floats in the first half were aware of the tragedy.

Coincidentally – Monday afternoon on my show I talked about my wonderful experience of riding in the Magical Krewe of Madhatters Saturday night, and a big part of that discussion was about parade safety.

Here is what I wrote in a blog that posted Monday on the website and the WWL Radio and SOTA Facebook pages:

As much fun as the parade was - there was one thing that concerned me about Mardi Gras parades in general - and after the ride Saturday night I think it’s important to address this issue.

There were sections along the westbound Jefferson Parish route where the crowds were behind barricades, but there were many stretches of the route where crowds could get up next to the floats. I did love it when listeners come up to the float and say something to me or shake my hand and it was also fun to personally had the signature Madhatters hat or something special to adults and kids, but I was worried when I went to throw something and what I threw fell on the street between the tractor pulling the float and the float. Countless times kids would instinctively go right in front of the float to grab whatever I had thrown. Often parents were there to immediately pull their kids back and the parade rolled without any problems or incidents, but there have been times over the years when someone gets hit or rolled over by a float and a few times the outcome has been tragic.

This is not a comment focused on the parade I was in Saturday night, but it is a safety reminder for Mardi Gras parading.

Adults can be as guilty as children when it comes to ignoring danger on their quest to secure a throw from a float, but let’s remember that children are more likely to respond to instinct over safety and that’s why it was so great to see so many parents protecting their children along the route Saturday night.

The parades this weekend rolled without major incidents of crowds being hit by floats – but having noticed the tendency – especially with kids – to go for the throw in the street – I wanted to remind us all that the excitement of the parade should never supersede safety.

The idea of putting up barricades along entire parade routes is probably unrealistic and it is fun when the crowds approach the floats – but as coveted as some of the throws are to the crowd nothing coming off any float is worth risking life or injury.

As the community mourns – it is not appropriate to assign blame – but it would be completely reckless not to remind everyone going to parades that the excitement and the desire to get to beads or throws during a Mardi Gras parade should never shroud our awareness of basic safety.

Have a safe Mardi Gras season!!!

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