Fourteen people receive treatment following ‘major incident’ in Belfast venue

Young people at risk of ‘choking’ and ‘collapsing’ into river

A medical tent and ambulances outside the Odyssey Arena in Belfast. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

A medical tent and ambulances outside the Odyssey Arena in Belfast. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Fri, Feb 7, 2014, 11:55

Fourteen young people are still receiving treatment for alcohol and drugs use following what the emergency services call “a major incident” at Belfast’s largest entertainment venue last night. All are understood to be in a stable condition.

Seventeen teenagers were taken to various Belfast hospitals amid scenes of mass drunkenness outside the Odyssey Arena in the city’s docklands as internationally-renowned Dutch DJ Hardwell was due to host a gig which had attracted thousands.

He is due to perform tonight at the O2 in Dublin.

Volunteers working for SOS Bus, a service offered by trained volunteers and medical staff normally seen in Belfast city centre at weekends, alerted the statutory medical and ambulance services when they noted large numbers of teenagers, some of them very young, in various stages of drunkenness.

The “major incident” status was ordered by the NI Ambulance Service due the scale of the problem, the numbers lying ill and vomiting, and the size of the response needed by medical professionals. There were also fears that “bad drugs” were in circulation.

More than 100 were treated for symptoms of alcohol with some of them also presenting with drugs symptoms, said John McPolin of the Ambulance Service.

Seventeen were taken to hospital and just three were discharged later. The remainder are still receiving treatment.

“We arrived down at the scene and assessed and very quickly declared a major incident because of the numbers of people involved,” he said.

“It seems that a lot of the young people tonight have turned up already with lots of alcohol on board.”

Some children had passed out due to excessive consumption.

Twitter traffic jumped rapidly once news emerged and many parents soon arrived at the venue to look for their children.

Joe Hyland, who helps organise and run the SOS Bus initiative, said it was fortunate that fatalities had been avoided. Many were at risk he said from aspirating their own vomit or from falling into the roads choked with traffic or collapsing into the Lagan which runs past the Odyssey and into Belfast Lough.

He told the BBC this morning: “Some of them were very, very ill - life-threateningly ill, where they had over indulged.”

“We recognised an increasing threat to their life. We started to bring in paramedics, the Ambulance Service.”

Health professionals “recognised the numbers were too big” and they had to call a major incident.

He added: “Their resources were limited, they had something like seven ambulances tasked for the evening and when they realised that they were in a danger of not being able to cope they brought in their senior people, who I think made the very best decision.”