Massive St. Patrick’s Day crowd forces street closures in Waterloo

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WATCH ABOVE: Massive St. Patrick's Day crowd forces street closures in Waterloo – Mar 17, 2019

The annual unsanctioned St. Patrick’s Day party in Waterloo continues to cause major issues for first responders.

As usual, police were forced to close Ezra Avenue, but this year’s crowd grew so large that police also closed Bricker Avenue on Sunday.

“Our priority today is public safety and crowd management,” Waterloo Regional Police Const. Ashley Dietrich said. “We were forced to close down Ezra Avenue at around noon due to some concerns about crowd management.

“After that, we were forced to close down Bricker Avenue as well to keep the crowds contained.”

READ MORE: Expect as many as 30,000 Waterloo St. Patrick’s Day revellers on Sunday — police chief

By 6 p.m., things had settled down and Ezra Avenue was being reopened and cleaned up.

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There were some issues reported by police at this year’s festivities.

A year ago, it was estimated that 22,000 people were in attendance at the annual party. This year, at least one official estimated that the crowd had surpassed that number.

On Thursday, Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin said officers were expecting crowds of as many as 30,000 at this year’s event.

As of 3 p.m., crowds were at least as big as a year earlier, Dietrich estimated.

Kevin Petendra, deputy chief with the Region of Waterloo Paramedic Services, said that his staff were very busy with this year’s festivities.

At the 2018 St. Paddy’s Day party, there were 69 calls for paramedics throughout the day. As of 3 p.m. Sunday, paramedics had received 41 calls and transported 18 to hospital.

“I will say that the crowd size is significant,” Petendra said. “It’s overwhelming our services. It’s delaying our response to our patients.”

A majority of the calls paramedics had answered mid-afternoon were related to alcohol and drug issues, but there were also calls for falls, fractures and head injuries, according to Petendra.

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One of those calls was for a Waterloo Regional Police officer who had slipped and fallen on the ice. Dietrich was unable to provide an update as to the status of his injury on Sunday afternoon.

As of 3 p.m. Sunday, it was also unclear how many charges police had laid or if anyone had been arrested in relation to the unsanctioned festivities.

Police say that there were several reports of unruly behaviour at the party.

“It’s disappointing to see some of the disrespectful behaviour being displayed by some of those people attending,” Waterloo police spokesperson Cherri Greeno told Global News. “A lot of beer bottles are being thrown, as well as rocks.

“In large crowds such as this, it is a serious safety concern. We continue to encourage people to celebrate in a licensed establishment and not on the street. This is an unsanctioned and unsafe event.”

“We have also received multiple reports of people falling and slipping, hitting their heads and receiving other injuries,” Greeno said. “Other people have been observed climbing trees and hanging out windows of highrise buildings.

“There is a great concern for the safety of those attending these unlawful events.”

Ryan Schubert, deputy chief with Waterloo Fire Rescue, said that his service had also answered 18 calls in the area as of 3 p.m.

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“Many of those calls are related to elevator entrapment alarm ringings,” he said. “The elevator entrapment is related to human behaviour — over-occupancy or personnel jumping in the elevators as well.”

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