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Highway gridlock halts Phish concert traffic; pedestrian killed

A man walks beside the bumper-to-bumper traffic along I-75 on Wednesday night  

December 30, 1999
Web posted at: 10:21 a.m. EST (1521 GMT)

BIG CYPRESS SEMINOLE INDIAN RESERVATION, Florida (CNN) -- Thousands of young people heading to a two-day concert by the rock group Phish got stuck in a 25-mile long traffic jam on Wednesday. Amid the chaos, authorities said a pedestrian was killed when he fell out of a car and was struck by a passing vehicle.

Traffic along the stretch of interstate, known as Alligator Alley, an 80-mile east-west span of I-75 that connects Fort Lauderdale with Naples, Florida, was bumper-to-bumper for most of the day.

VideoCheck out the traffic jam, with Charles Billi, of CNN affiliate WSVN.
Real 28K 80K
Windows Media 28K 80K

By late in the day, the traffic began moving at slow speeds -- slight progress compared to the miles of gridlock hours earlier.

"What we're trying to do is get people to remain in their cars and just remain patient ... so we can keep traffic moving," said Capt. David Brierton of the Florida Highway Patrol. "Traffic is moving slowly."

Authorities predicted the traffic snarl would pick up again at daybreak with more concert-goers hitting the road for the event, which begins Thursday afternoon.

At one point Wednesday, a line of bumper-to-bumper cars stretched more than 25 miles in both directions, with people getting out of their cars, mingling with others and walking along the median and shoulder.

One young man dropped his trousers and "mooned" television helicopters from the hood of a car.

A highway patrol dispatcher, asked if it was the worst traffic he'd ever seen, said simply: "You ain't kidding."

Authorities said the fatality happened around 4:30 p.m. when a male who was apparently hanging out the window of a car fell out and was hit by a passing vehicle about 8 miles from the exit ramp off I-75 to the Indian reservation where the concert is to take place.

The name of the person killed -- described only as a male from Orlando -- was not immediately released pending notification of next of kin.

With nightfall, authorities were urging people heading to the concert to remain calm and stay in their vehicles.

"The greatest concern right now is that it is dark, people are in dark clothes wandering around and we don't want them to get hit," a dispatcher, who asked not to be named, said.

Concert-goers are trying to reach Snake Road, a two-lane road that leads to the site of the concert at the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation, about nine miles north of the center of Alligator Alley.

Concert organizers have sold all 75,000 tickets, and on Wednesday they pleaded with fans not to show up at the concert site without a ticket. Tickets cost $150 to $175 for the concert and camping celebration dubbed Phish New Year's Eve 2000, or simply Phish NYE 2000.

Phish -- a group so popular that Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream has a flavor named after the band -- will perform its first set on Thursday, beginning around 4:30 p.m. ET. It will return to play two more evening sets.

On Friday, the four-man band will perform an afternoon set followed by a long break. The band will return to the stage shortly before midnight and play until sunrise.

Concert-goers were urged to bring a hat, sunscreen, toilet paper and ear plugs. There will be water, medical assistance, wash stations (but no showers), portable toilets, pay phones, at least one ATM and numerous vendors selling food at the event.

This year's concert will be the 11th consecutive New Year's Eve performance for the band -- an event that has become legendary among Phish followers. In 1994, while playing at Boston Garden, the band members flew over the audience in a giant hot dog when midnight struck.

Concert organizers have not disclosed what sort of antics the band has in store at the stroke of midnight for this year's event.

The Official Phish Web Site
The Phish.Net - By Phish Fans, for Phish Fans
The Phish Phactory
Andy Gadiel's Phish Page
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