Trump rally attendees were stranded in the cold for hours in Omaha

National News

President Trump held a rally in Omaha, Nebraska, on Tuesday night – but it’s what happened after the rally that many reporters and attendees are talking about. Police said the last person was loaded into a bus from the site of the rally close to midnight, hours after it ended. 

Fox News’ West Coast correspondent Jeff Paul tweeted videos from the rally at Eppley Airfield, writing: “Thousands of people left out in the cold and stranded in Omaha, Nebraska after a Trump rally.” 

“I’m told the shuttles aren’t operating & there aren’t enough busses,” Paul’s tweet continued. “Police didn’t seem to know what to do. Some walked. I saw at least one woman getting medical attention.” The video he shared showed lines of people standing outside in the dark.

“The above video & this one were taken around 10:15pm,” he wrote in a second tweet, sharing another similar video of stranded attendees. “The #Trump rally ended around 8:45pm. Some just gave up and walked from the airfield, back to wherever they parked. It was about 32° out at the time. Many had already spent hours outside as they waited for POTUS to arrive.”

CNN’s senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny also tweeted: “President Trump took off in Air Force One 1 hr 20 minutes ago, but thousands of his supporters remain stranded on a dark road outside the rally. ‘We need at least 30 more buses,’ an Omaha police officer just said, shaking his head at the chaotic cluster that is unfolding.”

In an emailed statement to CBS News, Samantha Zager, deputy national press secretary for Mr. Trump’s campaign, said: “President Trump loves his supporters and was thrilled to visit Omaha last night. Despite the cold, tens of thousands of people showed up for his rally.”

“Because of the sheer size of the crowd, we deployed 40 shuttle buses – double the normal allotment – but local road closures and resulting congestion caused delays,” the statement continued. “At the guest departure location, we had tents, heaters, generators, hot cocoa, and handwarmers available for guests. We always strive to provide the best guest experience at our events and we care about their safety.”

According to a preliminary report, seven people were transported to area hospitals “with a variety of medical conditions,” Michael Pecha, public information officer for the Omaha Police Department, said in an email to CBS News. He said 30 people were contacted for medical reasons.

“Those needing medical attention were contacted by medics over the duration of the event, not just at the end,” Pecha said. “Eppley Airport Fire Department will have a better accounting of the total number of medical contacts, reasons and times.”

According to Pecha, 40 buses took about 25,000 people to the event site over a 10-hour period, from 10:00 a.m. to the start of the rally at 8 p.m. 

“Law enforcement did assist people out of the area who wanted to leave or couldn’t make it on buses before the rally ended,” Pecha said. “When the speech was over at about 9 p.m., people flooded to the waiting buses.”

There were buses specifically for handicap people in attendance and additional Metro Area Transit buses were called in to get people back to their cars, Pecha said.

“Many people elected to walk back to the parking areas instead of waiting for a bus. The shortest walk to the nearest parking lot was approximately 2.5 miles,” his email continued. “The foot traffic on Lindberg Drive slowed bus traffic and delayed bus trips considerably. There was an abundance of uniformed officers in marked cars and on foot attempting to direct traffic to clear the congestion.”

Pecha said officers gave rides to some elderly and some others. “Many people underestimated the distance from the event back to the parking lot on foot. The last person was loaded into a bus from the rally site at about 11:50 p.m.,” Pecha said.

At around 12:30 a.m., pedestrian traffic returned to normal, he said.

Kris Surface Beckenbach, who was a volunteer at the rally, told CBS News that “attendees waiting for transport had no information until an officer started providing updates.”

She said there was a 90-minute stretch where they saw no buses, and she saw people who needed assistance, but did not see any emergency situations. “I was alone and it was dark,” Beckenbach told CBS News via Facebook message, adding that some of her friends chose to walk to their cars in the cold.

“It was no one’s fault that traffic was a mess,” Beckenbach said. “No one expected the number of attendees and vehicles.”

“Most people were dressed appropriately. But everyone gets tired after hours of standing,” she continued. “I personally shared a beanie I had bought for a friend, an ear warmer, a blanket, and hand warmer I had in my bag. We take personal responsibility, and we take care of each other.”

Beckenbach said the rally ended at 9 p.m. and she got back to her car at 12:15 a.m.

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