President Donald Trump’s rally at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska, ended around 9 p.m. Tuesday, but hundreds of attendees wouldn’t make their way out of the freezing cold until a few hours later.
As Trump jetted away on Air Force One, his supporters lined up to wait for buses to take them back to their cars, which were parked miles away from the event.
But the buses, organized by the Trump campaign, were staggeringly slow to return. There were plenty of buses, the campaign told the Omaha World-Herald, but they were stuck in traffic after the rally because the two-lane airport access road was limited to one direction.
“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,” Samantha Zager, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign, said in a statement.
The temperature dropped as low as 31 degrees Tuesday night. At least two people received help from police, including an elderly woman warming up in the back of a police cruiser and a young boy, according to the World-Herald.
“We need at least 30 more buses,” one Omaha police officer told CNN after the rally, reportedly shaking his head at the chaotic scene.
The last person was loaded onto a shuttle bus at the rally site shortly before midnight, Omaha police told HuffPost. Vehicle and pedestrian traffic continued in the area until about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, police said.
Thirty people were “contacted for medical reasons” and a total of seven people were transported to hospitals “with a variety of medical conditions,” Omaha police told HuffPost, citing preliminary reports.
“Those needing medical attention were contacted by medics over the duration of the event, not just at the end,” a police spokesperson said in a statement.
“Many people elected to walk back to the parking areas instead of waiting for a bus,” the spokesperson added. “The shortest walk to the nearest parking lot was approximately 2.5 miles. ... Officers assisted in giving rides to elderly and infirm people who elected to walk. Many people underestimated the distance from the event back to the parking lot on foot.”
The Omaha Airport Authority said six people ― not seven, as police said ― were transported to hospitals throughout the event. A spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment about what led the rallygoers to require medical attention or at what point during the night they received it.
CHI Health’s university campus in Ohama treated five people with “minor complaints,” a spokesperson for the medical center told HuffPost.
The Trump campaign made “tents, heaters, generators, hot cocoa, and handwarmers available to guests” at the “guest departure location,” Zager said in her statement Wednesday.
“We always strive to provide the best guest experience at our events and we care about their safety,” she added.
Thousands of people packed Trump’s outdoor rally in Omaha on Tuesday. Though the campaign checked attendees’ temperatures and provided them with masks, many people in the crowd opted not to wear them, prompting concerns over the possibility of the coronavirus spreading.
COVID-19 cases have reached record highs in Nebraska in recent weeks as infection rates surge across dozens of states. But Trump told the crowd in Omaha that the U.S. was “turning that corner” on the pandemic.
Trump joked about the frigid conditions at one point during his rally Tuesday.
“I’m standing here freezing,” the president told the rallygoers, many of whom would be doing the same for another three hours after he wrapped up his speech. “I ask you one little favor: Get the hell out and vote.”
Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb on Wednesday bashed the Trump campaign for its “poor planning.”
“Leaving thousands of Nebraskans stranded in the cold captures the entire Trump administration,” Kleeb tweeted. “I hope those responsible for the poor planning to feed Trump’s ego will be held accountable and that fellow Nebraskans turn out to vote to end this chaos.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Trump flew from Omaha to Washington. He flew to Las Vegas.