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July 27, 2014

Woman Struck By Car During San Diego ZombieWalk; Everyone Shuts Down Media Comment Until Monday

A long-running "zombie walk" that takes place Comic-Con weekend in San Diego was the scene of an incident Saturday evening where a man with his two small children tried to drive out of the area where the walk was taking place, had his car physically touched (the range of the touching is at issue) by people participating, and then in trying to get away from that the car hit a 64-year-old woman. At least that's the timeline offered by Deadline, one of several major media outlets to pounce on the story.

The report says that the injured woman was hospitalized with serious but not life-threatening injuries. I believe from still images of video I've seen that the injured was not part of the ZombieWalk, but I can't confirm.

The walk is not directly affiliated with Comic-Con; it is one of several events that in the last few years have come to be held during and around the convention. The walk is a relative old-timer in those terms, having been around I believe since 2007.

That same Deadline report also has everyone shutting down on comments -- Comic-Con deferring to local law enforcement, law enforcement deferring pending further investigation, and the event organizers after a flurry of defensive-sounding comments here. There are also similarly-toned responses on their Facebook page.

The Deadline report further says that no one has yet been arrested, as a bunch of other reports have stated. We'll see how that one plays out. The consensus of media reporting has the man being identified -- thus the description in that first graph.

We at CR are sorry for the woman's injuries and hope she recovers quickly and fully. We are also sorry for the potential panic and discomfort experienced by the person in the car with their children, and those children. If there were other negative outcomes related to physical injury or emotional stress, we hope for the best there, too.


It seems to me two related Comic-Con stories are relevant here -- or at least there are two stories that will be linked to this one, particularly the first one. That first one is the death of a woman named Gisela Gagliardi crossing the street while returning to a line for a Comic-Con event in 2012. The second is the growing sprawl of related events that take place during the weekend but are not directly affiliated with the show.

As to the first, I think the difference beyond the obvious, relative seriousness of each injury is that one person was waiting in line for an official Comic-Con event and this incident was not an official Comic-Con event. In the former case, Comic-Con International could then be safely expected to review their line policies. While they have declined to comment on a pair of inquiries from this site as to what that conversation entailed or how it may have changed policy, we know that conversation took place. I'm not sure what if anything Comic-Con can do with this new incident other than maybe reflect on any similar policies at an increasingly crowded show. In fact, I expect all organizers of events during Comic-Con weekend will probably consider the implications; I hope if I were involved that we would do so.

I also suppose an aggressive strategy regarding any kind of outside event suggesting the slightest hint of affiliation with Comic-Con, even casually, might be considered. Mostly, I'm not sure where Comic-Con goes with this, although I expect them to defer to local law enforcement in terms of making a statement.

As to the second, this is sort of a minor nightmare scenario for Comic-Con. They've expressed direct concern about the sprawl of events: first for an unfortunate result out of their control, like this one, second for how that will be used to criticize the con itself. Even that measured Deadline piece characterized this as a dark mark on Comic-Con weekend, which may or may not be fair (on the one hand, not affiliated; on the other, Comic-Con does get similar, indirect credit when off-site events go well, so maybe this is fair going the other way).

I think the city bears some responsibility, too. I get why you endure the traffic problems caused by a giant convention; I'm not sure why a zombie walk is allowed near cars that can hurt people and near people that can be scared by this kind of thing just because they happen to be going about their business at some time that's not convenient for the zombies and their walking. It's a little bit confusing to me. I know when my town has a parade that involves any public sidewalk or street those spaces are blocked off an hour in advance and there's no way this kind of scenario could come close to happening.

I am a big fan of events using Comic-Con as a springboard for nearby activity, but I do think it's wholly on them and any/all civic partners to make those events as safe as possible. I feel that's true of Image Expo, I feel that's true of any walk-through promotion in a parking lot, and I suspect that when I know more I'll think it's a true thing here. That said, this is still an issue for Comic-Con, because the convention's sprawl needs to be accommodated on some level.

Right now, everyone is waiting and seeing. Let's hope that there's continued attention to this after the flash heat of the breaking story dies down.
posted 1:00 pm PST | Permalink

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