Outrage as Taylor Swift fan dies at Rio de Janeiro concert in sweltering heat amid water bottle ban

  • 19/11/2023

A young Brazilian fan of US singer Taylor Swift died in Rio de Janeiro on Friday night (local time) after falling ill inside the superstar's sweltering concert venue, leading the government to order drinking water is provided and made easily accessible at shows.

Ana Clara Benevides, 23, became unwell at the Nilton Santos stadium, event organizer T4F (SHOW3.SA) wrote on Instagram. It said she was promptly attended to by medical staff, and then taken to an on-site medical station, before being transferred to the Salgado Filho Hospital, where she died.

Rio state health service said she arrived at hospital with her heart stopped. Her cause of death is unknown, and will be investigated.

Some 60,000 fans had gathered for Swift's sell-out concert at the stadium, which is located far from Rio's breezy picture-postcard beaches in a hotter northern neighborhood.

The show took place on the same day that Rio recorded its highest ever reading of the so-called heat index, which combines temperature and humidity, at 59.3 degrees Celsius (138.74 degrees Fahrenheit).

Intense heatwaves, attributed to the El Niño phenomenon and a rise in global temperatures, have gripped multiple Brazilian states, with temperatures surpassing historical averages since July, according to the National Institute of Meteorology, which estimated that 2023 will be the hottest year since the 1960s.

During the concert, several fans fell ill, prompting Swift to interrupt her performance and request that the production team provide them with water, videos showed.

It's reported fans were not allowed to bring bottled water into the stadium despite the sweltering temperatures in Rio.

This has left fans furious with a group launching an online petition calling for a "Benevides Law" to "make water in events mandatory".

The petition gained more than 150,000 signatures in just a few hours and has resulted in Justice Minister Flavio Dino announcing the government would issue a directive allowing water bottles to be brought into concerts.

"Companies producing shows with high heat exposure must provide free drinking water in easily accessible 'hydration islands.' The measure is effective immediately," he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The announcement followed National Consumer Secretary Wadih Damous's post on X stressing the government had ordered T4F to guarantee water access at all of Swift's concerts in Brazil.

T4F did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Taylor Swift performs onstage during "Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour" at Estadio Olimpico Nilton Santos.
Taylor Swift performs onstage during "Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour" at Estadio Olimpico Nilton Santos. Photo credit: Getty Images

Concert-goers have been quick to describe the conditions inside the stadium, with one fan saying it was "sauna-like".

"It was extremely hot. My hair got so wet from sweat as soon as I came in," 26-year-old Elizabeth Morin said. "There was a point at which I had to check my breathing to make sure I wasn't going to pass out."

Morin said she saw a "good amount of people looking distressed" and others "yelling for water".

Swift - who is scheduled to perform in Rio on Saturday and Sunday, followed by three shows in São Paulo between November 24 and 26 - offered condolences to Benevides' family and friends.

"I'm not going to able to speak about this from the stage because I feel overwhelmed by grief when I even try to talk about it," she wrote on Instagram. "This is the last thing I ever thought would happen when we decided to bring this tour to Brazil."

Reuters witnessed fans suffering in the heat on Saturday as they waited to get in the show later.

Swift had been welcomed to Rio by a projection on the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue. She wrote that her fan died "before my show." However, Benevides' friends told local media that she became ill after the concert began.

Heat exhaustion, which can include dizziness, headaches, shaking and thirst, is not usually serious, providing the person cools down within 30 minutes.

The more serious version is heat-stroke, when the body's core temperature goes above 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.6 degrees Celsius). It is a medical emergency and can lead to long-term organ damage and death.