Thousands of people, many of whom were older adults, were left stranded for hours Tuesday night in the freezing cold following a Trump rally at an airfield in Omaha, Nebraska, with several being hospitalized.
The president left on Air Force One just after 9 p.m. following the event at the Eppley Airfield. But many of his supporters were stuck there until very late at night, miles away from their cars, waiting for the buses the Trump campaign had chartered to shuttle attendees back to the parking lot, the Omaha World-Herald reported.
Thirty people were « contacted for medical reasons » and seven were transported to the hospital from the event, a spokesperson for the Omaha Police Department told BuzzFeed News. Roughly 25,000 people in total had been in attendance.
According to Omaha Scanner, a Twitter account that monitors local emergency scanners in the area, a number of people had to be treated for hypothermia and other conditions as a result of the cold. One older adult was reported to be « frozen cold unable to move with an altered mental status. »
Police said many attendees walked about 3 miles back to the parking lot, and that officers personally transported some older attendees who were having difficulty in the cold and chaos back to their cars.
« The last person was loaded into a bus from the rally site at about 11:50 p.m., » the police spokesperson said.
The weather hovered around freezing with a strong wind chill, records from the National Weather Service show, making temperatures feel frigid.
« Is there any place you would rather be than a Trump rally on about a 10-degree evening? It’s cold out here, but that’s OK, » Trump said, mentioning that he had just been in Wisconsin and Michigan, where it had also been cold. « I said I won’t put on a hat, because I’m gonna show you how tough we are. »
State Sen. Megan Hunt, a Democrat, tweeted that « supporters of the President were brought in, but buses weren’t able to get back to transport people out. »
« It’s freezing and snowy in Omaha tonight, » Hunt said. « What people will do for this con man, what people have sacrificed, is so sad to me. He truly does not care about you. »
Earlier that evening, the police department tweeted that the parking lot was full and that attendees who traveled on foot or by cab would not be allowed in.
The Trump campaign said they had hired « plenty of buses but [were] having trouble getting them to people still waiting because traffic flow on the small, two-lane airport access road is limited to one direction. »
But a police officer on the scene that night said they needed « at least 30 more buses, » according to a CNN reporter who was present.
Coronavirus rates are creeping up in Nebraska, and though the Trump campaign reportedly distributed masks at the rally, many people did not wear them.
The crowd numbered in the thousands, with a reporter estimating it at 6,000 people, police saying it was over 10,000, and the Trump campaign saying there were 29,000 people there.
In his speech, Trump downplayed the severity of the pandemic, which has killed more than 227,000 Americans, including 14 Nebraskans who died the day of his rally alone.
« You notice the fake news now, right? » Trump said. « All they talk about is COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID. And we’ve made such progress it’s incredible. »
In a statement, Samantha Zager, Trump’s deputy national press secretary, said they « always strive to provide the best guest experience at our events and we care about their safety.”
“President Trump loves his supporters and was thrilled to visit Omaha last night, » Zager said. « 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 instead of the normal 15, but local road closures and resulting congestion caused delays. »