A volunteer security guard chaplain at this year's Lifest Christian festival is claiming that the death of a teenage girl at the event was due to negligence.
Recently, Winnebago County district attorney Christian Gossett announced that no criminal charges are expected in the death of 16-year-old Elizabeth K. Mohl of Menasha, Wis., although investigations are still not expected to wrap up until Friday.
However, volunteer worker Kris Potts, who has been having lengthy discussions with the investigators, thinks it is the wrong decision.
"They (festival organizers) had opportunities to stop it," Potts told The Christian Post, referring to the tragedy earlier this month.
Air Glory, the ride from which Elizabeth fell, attaches two to three individuals to a long cable and raises them about 100 feet above the ground. The riders then pull a rip cord to send themselves swinging through the air.
According to reports, Elizabeth fell from the apparatus at about the same time the rip cord was pulled and plummeted the full length, just missing safety cushions by yards.
"They could have stopped it. They should have stopped it," Potts said.
The festival volunteer is claiming that the ride was run improperly throughout the weekend. The Air Glory operators would pull the riders up to the top and then release it a bit to create slack, so that it would create more of a whip effect. This is maluse, according to the volunteer worker, who says it could have fatigued steel rings in the ride.
The operators, he added, also continued to run the apparatus during the rain despite being asked to stop by festival heads. Potts argues that Lifest officials should have pulled the plug on Air Glory after this, especially since the device is like a "giant lightning rod."
"I'm not saying these are horrifically bad people, but they made bad judgment," he explained to The Christian Post. "As an individual, I have an obligation to the public. Not to slam people, but to speak the truth about what went wrong."
Lifest organizers, however, who are well aware of Potts' efforts to bring attention to the matter, say the Wisconsin-native is simply linking the death of Elizabeth to his own dissatisfaction with how they allow "moshing" at the festival.
"If you research this guy at all, he's got a history of grand standing in this type of way," said Wes Halula, director of communications of Life! Promotions, which sponsors the festival, to The Christian Post. "He was just upset with how we allow a mosh pit."
Notably, "moshing" was one of the big problems Potts described, especially in front of the Lifest's "Edge" stage, which played harder Christian music. He explained that there were a handful of ambulances calls to the festival the night before Elizabeth passed away due to injuries and that security guards had been "pummeled and beaten" by the crowd.
In a specific example, Potts said that festival organizers had made a negotiation with concert-goers in which they agreed to back off security.
"I call it a deal with the devil," the volunteer told The Christian Post. "We knew people were getting hurt, and we let them continue getting hurt."
But festival heads have noted that the problem is exaggerated, and that there were two distinct groups. One group can mosh while guards set apart another group that would prefer to just listen to the bands.
They feel that moshing is helpful to bring in new people.
"Sure, people might say that moshing shouldn't be allowed," added Halula to The Christian Post, "but it allows a way for some kids that wouldn't normally come to a Christian music festival to be exposed to the gospel."
Winnebago County district attorney Gossett, meanwhile, says there might have been safety problems or operator mistakes, but he doesn't foresee any actions reckless enough to constitute a crime.
Although he hasn't been involved in the investigations, Gossett has spoken with state investigators.