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ColbertWatcher's Journal
Posted by ColbertWatcher in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Mon Dec 01st 2008, 07:13 PM
DISCLAIMER I included posts from several other DUers. The inclusion of these posts does not represent an endorsement by those posters of my opinion expressed in this post.

I'm going to try to describe why I believe some high-level officer at Wal-Mart should be held criminally liable for the death of Djimytai Damour.

To answer some questions right up front:

Wal-Mart's other stores had sales, but none of them had accidents.
Good. That's the way it should be. However, I'm not concerned with the other stores, Djimytai Damour did not die in every store; he died at the store in Valley Stream--the only one I'm concerned with.


You're more concerned with the Wal-Mart disaster and not Mumbai
No, I am concerned with the people in Mumbai. I am posting about Wal-Mart because there seems to be persistent disagreements surrounding it. I admit that I know little to nothing about Mumbai and don't want to post about something I know little about.


A-ha, but you've stated before that you're not a security expert! Which means you're as much an expert about Mumbai as you are about Wal-Mart! Gotcha!
No. I have found some things on the internet that make me believe that the crowd is not to blame for the death of Djimytai Damour. I have been posting them in reply to other threads and my posts have been ignored in whole or in part. By creating this thread, I can respond directly without threadjacking.


But, what about Toys R Us?
As far as I can tell, Toys R Us is not liable for the deaths of the two shot at their store. In addition, Toys R Us did not re-open the store where the shooting took place, until the next day; Wal-Mart reopened in less than 12 hours.



And now, back to my main point ...


I will make no excuses for Wal-Mart.

I do not want Wal-Mart to use their considerable profits to avoid a trial. Without a trial, there is no justice. I believe there should be a trial. I believe it should be televised so everyone can see how--along with their criminal negligence on November 28, 2008--Wal-Mart's systematic disregard for their employees contributed to the death of Djimytai Damour.

I believe Damour's family should sue Wal-Mart for their criminal negligence. I believe some high-level officer at Wal-Mart should be held criminally liable for the death of Djimytai Damour.

In this post, I will argue why I believe Wal-Mart should It is divided into five sections (six if you include this introduction):

1. Who my post is about

2. What happens in crowds

3. Pictures I have seen of the Wal-Mart in Valley Stream

4. How this disaster could have been prevented

5. Conclusion


WHO ARE WE TALKING ABOUT
His name was Djimytai Damour. (DUer Omaha Steve's post includes a recent photo)

He was 34 years old. Some media reports say he was Haitian. There is less certainty as to which job he was hired to perform for Wal-Mart. Some say he was a clerk, others say he was an overnight stock clerk, still others say he was a security guard. No one disputes he worked for a temporary agency, or that it was his first--and last--day at the store.

He was pronounced dead at a Valley Stream-area hospital at approximately 6 a.m., November 28, 2008.



WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT
I will try to compile everything that I have found about how people can die in crowds based not on my expertise, but on my ability to use google.

Essentially this is about crowd control and how a lack of crowd control can contribute to death. As I am not an expert, so I will defer to those who are:

A company named "Crowd Dynamics (CD)" has posted the definitive study on crowd control on their web site.

CD cites the Fruin study in their section on "Crowd Disasters,"
"Crowd forces can reach levels that almost impossible to resist or control. Virtually all crowd deaths are due to compressive asphyxia and not the "trampling" reported by the news media. Evidence of bent steel railings after several fatal crowd incidents show that forces of more than 4500 N (1,000 lbs.) occurred. Forces are due to pushing, and the domino effect of people leaning against each other.

"Compressive asphyxia has occurred from people being stacked up vertically, one on top of the other, or horizontal pushing and leaning forces. In the Ibrox Park soccer stadium incident, police reported that the pile of bodies was 3 m (10 feet) high. At this height, people on the bottom would experience chest pressures of 3600-4000 N (800-900 lbs.), assuming half the weight of those above was concentrated in the upper body area.

"Horizontal forces sufficient to cause compressive asphyxia would be more dynamic as people push off against each other to obtain breathing space. In the Cincinnati rock concert incident, a line of bodies was found approximately 9 m (30 ft) from a wall near the entrance. This indicates that crowd pressures probably came from both directions as rear ranks pressed forward and front ranks pushed off the wall.

"Experiments to determine concentrated forces on guardrails due to leaning and pushing have shown that force of 30% to 75% of participant weight can occur. In a US National Bureau of Standards study of guardrails, three persons exerted a leaning force of 792 N (178 lbs.) and 609 N (137 lbs.) pushing. <9> In a similar Australian Building Technology Centre study, three persons in a combined leaning an pushing posture developed a force of 1370 N (306 lbs.). <10> This study showed that under a simulated "panic", 5 persons were capable of developing a force of 3430 N (766 lbs.)."


Wikip*dia describes compressive asphyxia:
"...the mechanical limitation of the expansion of the lungs by compressing the torso, hence interfering with breathing."



Before we go any further, let me emphasize three things:
1. external forces pushing against a person's chest can inhibit breathing by limiting the expansion of the lungs

2. CD quotes Fruin: "Crowd forces can reach levels that almost impossible to resist or control."

3. also from Fruin: "Evidence of bent steel railings after several fatal crowd incidents show that forces of more than 4500 N (1,000 lbs.) occurred."

In other words, crowd forces can be so great that no single person in the crowd can control them and those same forces are great enough to bend steel railings, not to mention limit the expansion of the lungs of those in the crowd through compression.


Now, allow me to show you an example of a crowd disaster: the Hillsborough disaster.

93 people died on April 15, 1989 (96 total) at the Hillsborough stadium, Sheffield, England.

The BBC set up cameras in the stadium that day to televise the semi-final match. Here is an edited account of that day posted on YouTube.

Please note, the BBC had only intended to broadcast the soccer match, but the sportscasters turned into newscasters less than six minutes into the match. This edited clip is 10:00 long and is the first of two parts.

Some highlights:
* at :40 a portion of the crowd outside the stadium before the match began
* at 1:56 some in the crowd begin climbing over the "crush barrier"
* at 2:16 you can hear the Nottingham Forrest fans booing/whistling the interruption of the match, not knowing what's going on
* at 2:52 a good view of the "crush barrier"
* at 3:14 a gate is opened to allowed fans through
* at 3:24 fans in the back are helped to the upper level
* at 3:41 a wider shot of the trapped crowd, some climbing up in the rear, others climbing the "crush barrier" in the front
* at 4:39 something is happening on the ground in the stands
* at 5:18 an ambulance arrives
* at 5:42, a portion of the "crush barrier" is torn down
* at 5:51, the pitch has turned into a makeshift triage center, showing fans using advertising boards as stretchers
* at 6:18 the Nottingham fans are silent
* at 6:50 a wide shot of the pitch and an announcement over the P.A. system
* at 7:52 the empty stands
* at 8:14 a bent railing
* starting at 8:21 two interviews with survivors, one describes people as "just blue"


For another example of a crowd disaster, here is DUer Neo's thread about the tragedy at The Who concert in 1979.



WHERE THIS HAPPENED
This is a crowd disaster that happened at the Wal-Mart store in the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, New York on November 28, 2008.

This section will be divided into three smaller sections: promotion, previous incidents, store lay-out and crowd size and initial police reaction to the crime scene. The lack of security and barricades are discussed throughout.

Promotion
To begin, let's look at some aerial footage of the store before the disaster.

DUer Amerigo Vespucci posted a video compiled by the AP and hosted by YouTube showing footage taken before and after the disaster.

Pay special attention to the portion between 16 and 21 seconds showing aerial footage of the line forming outside the store.

Three things strike me about that footage:

1. Where is the security?

2. Where are the barricades?

3. Where did the footage come from? Was it a police helicopter or a news helicopter? It is not likely to be a police helicopter, since the police were not called to respond to a disturbance until 3 a.m. and there are no patrol cars in the shot. If it was a "news" helicopter, what "news" were they covering? Who called them to the store and why?

Several DUers have pointed out that Wal-Mart created this dangerous situation--comparing their behavior to a person inciting a riot.

They've pointed out the "Blitz Line" sign and ...

Image 1

... the advertising (note the "Gifts worth waking for" line.).

Image 2

I would also like to add that footage from the video linked above to the list of ways Wal-Mart incited its customers.


Previous incidents
Others have pointed out that Wal-Mart should have known, due to past experience, that Black Fridays were not safe. Here are some links to previous Black Friday stampedes from 2006 and 2007.

During my searches, I discovered that November 28, 2008 was the 25th anniversary of Cabbage patch mania. For those not familiar with it, here is a YouTube video showing some of the mania from that day.

Aside from Wal-Mart promoting huge crowds and having experience with--yet ignoring--those dangerous crowds in the past, we're talking about now. What happened this time?


Store lay-out
Here is footage of the Black Friday stampede at the Elk City, Oklahoma Wal-Mart on the same day, November 28, 2008 (skip forward to about 2:55). What's important to note here is how many employees are at each door, how many security personnel are outside the store and where the doors are.

There appears to be only one employee at each of the two doors and no security personnel outside controlling the crowd. Most importantly, the outside doors open straight toward the inner doors and into the store. There is nothing to impede the on-coming crowd, like vending machines or walls. There is also nothing to create a bottleneck for the crowd like vending machines, walls, or a corner.

Now, let's look at the Valley Stream Wal-Mart.

This is an image of the outside of the store after Damour's death.

Image 3

There is an entrance under the "Always" painted on the glass consisting of a single door and two side entrances, one at the side marked "Pharmacy" and the other "1-Hour Photo."

Note on the right side of the image, a white square on the wall behind the man. That is the "Blitz Line" sign shown above (Image 1).

Here is what the "Pharmacy" side door looks like.

Image 4

The entrance has double sliding glass doors, which are designed to be opened even in case of a power outage simply by pushing against them. (BTW, you can push them open even when the power is on. An alarm may go off and the store employees don't like it, but it can be done.)

Now, let's look at images taken before the disaster.

These next two images were taken by the same person, moments apart. In this first one, you can see the sign on the wall of the front of the store.

Image 5

This shows that this person is on the right side of the building, near the "1-Hour Photo" door.

In the next one, you can clearly see the front door through the side ("1-Hour Photo") door in this image:

Image 6

I noticed a few things about these "before" images:

1. There are no security personnel outside.

2. There are no barricades.

3. There is no line.

4. People can be seen standing on the other side of the center entrance (Image 6). There is the possibility that at least two doors will be opened.

5. The "Pharmacy" side door cannot be seen from the "1-Hour Photo" side door due to a refrigerator-sized blue thing situated not 15 feet from the entrance(Image 6).

6. The lay-out of the store creates a "turn," with the refrigerator-sized blue thing as a barrier. This forces people to enter, then turn right before getting inside the store.


Initial police response and reports
The police responded to a call to the store around 3 a.m., when the crowd was estimated to be about 500 people.

People standing outside say they did not see any security.

The police stayed about 30 minutes before leaving the crowd to the store's security.



HOW IT COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED
DUer DoctorMyEyes's most excellent post: How Walmart Could Have Avoided Friday's Tragedy - Simple Diagram

DUer Omaha Steve posted that the president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 (which Wal-Mart is not a member of), Bruce Both said:
"This is not just tragic; it rises to a level of blatant irresponsibility by Wal-mart. UFCW Local 1500 will demand a full investigation by all levels of Government to ensure both justice for the surviving family members and to ensure the safety of current employees and the general public. This can never be allowed to happen again and those responsible must be held accountable


I have nothing to add to either post.




CONCLUSION
1. Crowd disasters have been studied.

2. Crowd forces can be great enough to bend steel.

3. Compressive asphyxia is accepted by experts to be the leading cause of death in crowd disasters.

4. Black Friday shopping stampedes have happened before.

5. professionals working in security and crowd control can be hired for their expertise to prevent such disasters from occuring.

6. Wal-Mart ignored their own Black Friday history by not providing adequate security for their customers or employees and are liable for Djimytai Damour's death.



----------------------------------------------------------------
MORE LINKS

Aa memorial site for the people who died in Hillsborough stadium in 1989 (http://www.contrast.org/hillsborough/histo... ) Special thanks to DUer dmesg for bringing this to my attention.

More images from Hillsborough in this edited video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx9N4dv5yPk )

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