By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The negative Fyre Festival fall-out intensified yesterday as a Hollywood celebrity attorney described Exuma as a “dangerous, deserted island” in a lawsuit seeking $100 million in damages from the organisers.
Mark Geragos, who has represented the likes of Michael Jackson and Winona Ryder, and appears regularly on major news networks such as CNN, gave a distinctly unflattering description of the Bahamas in the action filed with the central California federal court.
The action, on behalf of Fyre Festival-goer Daniel Jung, is a class action that hopes to attract at least 150 of his fellow travellers as plaintiffs in their claim against hip hop artist, Ja Rule, and his technology entrepreneur friend, Billy McFarland.
Mr Geragos’s legal filings did clear up one mystery though - the identity of the ‘wild animals’ said to be threatening festival-goers and running amok at the site near Roker’s Point.
They are none other than Exuma’s famous ‘swimming pigs’, and the lawsuit bizarrely includes a social media posting from one Fyre Festival attendee saying the experience of swimming with them had eased his disappointment.
“In addition to the substandard accommodations, wild animals were seen in and around the festival grounds,” the class action lawsuit blared, including a picture of a pig swimming happily passed several people.
The attached social media posting said: “Fyre is a huge s* show but it hasn’t been a total loss. I got to meet this swimming pig yesterday.”
The Ministry of Tourism has been monitoring social and mainstream media outlets for the past several days, trying to intervene where necessary to protect the Bahamas’ and Exuma’s reputation, and pin the blame on the organisers.
But the Fyre Festival debacle continues to attract widespread negative publicity, with the Geragos lawsuit a major story across multiple media outlets. The UK’s Guardian newspaper even included the Fyre Festival among its top music events that went arwy.
The class action lawsuit alleged: “Defendants promoted their Fyre Festival as a posh, island-based music festival featuring ‘first-class culinary experiences and a luxury atmosphere’. Instead, festival-goers were lured into what various media outlets have since labelled a ‘complete disaster’, ‘mass chaos’, and a ‘post-apocalyptic nightmare’.
“The festival’s lack of adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care created a dangerous and panicked situation among attendees - suddenly finding themselves stranded on a remote island without basic provisions - that was closer to ‘The Hunger Games’ or ‘Lord of the Flies’ than Coachella.
“Festival-goers survived on bare rations, little more than bread and a slice of cheese, and tried to escape the elements in the only shelter provided by defendants: small clusters of ‘FEMA tents’ exposed on a sand bar, that were soaked and battered by wind and rain.”
Mr Geragos, on his client’s behalf, added: “Attendees’ efforts to escape the unfolding disaster were hamstrung by their reliance upon defendants for transportation, as well as by the fact that defendants promoted the festival as a ‘cashless’ event - defendants instructed attendees to upload funds to a wristband for use at the festival rather than bringing any cash.
“As such, attendees were unable to purchase basic transportation on local taxis or buses, which accept only cash. As a result of defendants’ roadblocks to escape, at least one attendee suffered a medical emergency and lost consciousness after being locked inside a nearby building with other concert-goers waiting to be airlifted from the island.”
The lawsuit claimed that the organisers “had been aware for months that their festival was dangerously under-equipped and posed a serious danger to anyone in attendance”, again raising questions over the Ministry of Tourism’s due diligence and the assurances it received.
“Individuals employed by defendants have since acknowledged that no infrastructure for food service or accommodations was in place as recently as last month - the island was totally barren - and that the few contractors who had been retained by defendants were refusing to work because they had not been paid,” the lawsuit claimed.
“Various news outlets began describing these logistical problems and labelling the festival as a ‘scam’ weeks ago. At the same time, however, defendants were knowingly lying about the festival’s accommodations and safety, and continued to promote the event and sell ticket packages. The festival was even promoted as being on a ‘private island’ once owned by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar - the island isn’t private, as there is a ‘Sandals’ resort down the road, and Pablo Escobar never owned the island.”
That likely refers to Norman’s Cay, once the home of Mr Escobar’s associate, Carlos Lehder. The lawsuit, though, goes on to describe Great Exuma as “a remote island without food, shelter or water”.
“While plaintiff is aware that defendants have made overtures regarding refunds, class members’ damages in being lured to a deserted island and left to fend for themselves - a situation tantamount to false imprisonment - exceed the face value of their ticket packages by many orders of magnitude,” the action concluded.