Portsmouth, Sunday June 18th – A quiet night of music turned to tragedy Sunday night as a mother passed away unexpectedly at Prescott Park Arts Festival in what experts are saying was a preventable tragedy.
Julie Eastman, mother of three, began to experience symptoms of what are now believed to be a heart attack just as Lake Street Dive was beginning their set. Officials have not released the details as the autopsy is pending, but multiple sources have corroborated the series of events that lead to her death.
Officials are speculating that, were it not for the bannered rope barriers placed around the park, paramedics might have been able to reach Eastman in time.
“It was awful. Like Spock’s death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn when Kirk just couldn’t get to Spock because of the security door, only it was with this rope barrier with little flags on it,” said Samantha Brown, a recent UNH graduate who had come to see Lake Street Dive.
Brown, an admitted acapella lover and presumed lover of other bad things, spread her blanket at approximately 3:30pm to claim premium space during the Lake Street Dive concert, was the first person to notice something was wrong with Eastman.
“She was upset that people got up to dance,” said Brown. “We were practically sharing a blanket and her kids kept stepping off of her blanket and onto mine, which was annoying the shit out of me, and when people started to move to the front to dance, she started screaming ‘Sit down, sit down, I have a blanket’, even though her kids had been dancing the whole time, by the way. At that point, I saw her grab her chest and it was real clear she was in pain.”
Brown and friends quickly attended to her, and once they realized she wasn’t overreacting, called 911.
“It was just so crazy” said bystander Lorenzo Pappas. “We helped walk her to the gates. She was still pretty lucid then. The paths were clearly marked and all so that wasn’t a problem. But there were still lines to get into the festival at the gates, and we were stuck behind the pendant rope thingies that block people from getting into and out of the festival. Paramedics were right there on the other side too, but they couldn’t get in. Those ropes. Those fucking ropes.”
“Look, when you’ve been an EMT as long as I have, you learn a few things,” said responding grizzled EMT Bonzo Farthington. “The first is that EpiPens give you a hell of a high. The second is that flimsy rope barriers with little colorful banners kill more people every year than probably war and lack of access to affordable healthcare. If Bonzo Farthington ran this town and not John ‘Murder Machine Bohenko’ Bohenko, that lady might still be alive today, but politics, man.”
“We tried everything. Everything,” added attractive and capable yet naive rookie EMT Tiffany Poponopoulous. “We just couldn’t get around that rope. She died in agony. We just had to watch her pass right before our eyes. I was able to get my hand under the rope and I held her hand as she went. I think that will probably prove to be a really vivid memory for me and prevent me from forming close relationships until some street musician is able to break down my walls with the power of music.”
Prescott Park Arts Festival staff member, Kaitlin Anne, was working at the time of the incident. “We tried to get her out, but those flags are impenetrable. You would think you could go over or under or just tear out the supports but you rapidly realize that the barrier won’t let you. The rope barrier is more a prison in your mind than anything else. We’re all sort of prisoners of one set of flagged rope barriers or another when you think about it. Anyway, once that flag barrier decides you’re going to die, you’re going to die. We are so sorry this has created such a tragedy in our community. We will do better in 2018.”
When asked if there are measures to take in the remaining 2017 season, Anne just shrugged her shoulders and walked away to the Prop, a food concession building that might be owned by the festival or might be owned by the city. No one knows.
Ben Anderson could not be reached for comment.