Two women were killed when attendees of a GloRilla concert in Rochester, New York, rushed for the exits following the show Sunday night, police said.
One woman, 33-year-old Rhondesia Belton, was pronounced dead at a local hospital, police said early Monday morning. The second victim, identified only as a 35-year-old woman, died from her injuries later Monday.
Another 35-year-old woman remained in critical condition Monday night, police said.
Police initially said officers had responded to a report of gunfire at the Main Street Armory shortly after the concert ended around 11 p.m. and that “the injuries appear to be as a result of a large crowd pushing towards the exits following accounts of individuals hearing what they believed to be gunshots.
Later Monday morning, however, the Rochester Police Department said that “there are some reports that shots were heard, causing the crowd to panic, but that has not been confirmed.”
Police said they are still investigating the possible cause of the crowd surge, “including crowd size, shots fired, pepper spray, and more.”
Seven more people were brought in private vehicles to area hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
Alec Richardson, of CBS Rochester affiliate WROC-TV tweeted that he “saw a firefighter performing CPR, presumably on a victim on scene.”
About an hour after the incident, GloRilla, a Grammy-nominated rapper from Memphis, tweeted that she’d just heard what happened and that she was “praying everybody is ok.”
After learning of the second death, she tweeted that she was “devastated & heartbroken over the tragic deaths that happened after Sunday’s show. My fans mean the world to me praying for their families & for a speedy recovery of everyone affected.”
Mayor Malik Evans called the fatal stampede “totally unacceptable” and promised a thorough investigation into whether venue operators had the necessary safety measures in place for a large crowd.
“We are going to hold people accountable for what happened last night, period,” Evans said, though he cautioned that it was too early in the investigation to assign blame. “I intend to get to the bottom of this.”
The armory hosted sporting events throughout the 20th century before being shut down for several years starting in the late 1990s, partly because it lacked a fire suppression system at the time.
It reopened after extensive renovations and began hosting concerts and other events in 2005. Smith said its main arena is meant to have a capacity of about 5,000 people, and the city fire marshal will work with police to determine whether that capacity was exceeded Sunday.
City officials said the facility underwent a physical fire safety inspection in December and was compliant with fire codes.
The venue’s next scheduled show, a Saturday performance by the rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, has been canceled.
“If you go to a concert, you do not expect to be trampled,” Evans said. “Your loved ones expect you to be able to come home and talk about the experience that you had at that great concert.