CORINALDO, Italy (AP) — A stampede at a rap concert in an overcrowded disco in central Italy killed five young teenagers and a woman who had accompanied her daughter to the event early Saturday, police said, adding that 59 people were injured.
Video broadcast on state TV RaiNews24 showed scores of teenagers rushing out of a door and surging toward a low railing or wall near the exit of the Lanterna Azzurra (Blue Lantern) in the town of Corinaldo, near Ancona on the Adriatic coast. The barrier then appeared to give way, and a cascade of teenagers tumbled over it, falling on top of each other.
The bodies of the trampled victims were all found near a low wall, Ancona Firefighters Cmdr. Dino Poggiali had earlier told Sky TG24 News.
Rapper Sfera Ebbasta, who is very popular with young teenagers, was set to perform at the venue, and organizers had apparently sold too many tickets.
Ancona Chief Prosecutor Monica Garulli told reporters at the scene: “The number of tickets sold is about 1,400, compared to a capacity of about 870″ people.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini concurred that it is “probably true that there were … more people inside than was permissible.” State radio said that about 1,000 people were inside the disco when the stampede occurred.
The commander of Ancona province Carabinieri paramilitary police, Col. Cristian Carrozza said the dead teenagers’ ages ranged from 14 to 16 and that the woman was 39. Of those injured, 13 were in serious condition, he said.
The rush to exit the disco occurred shortly after 1 a.m. The concert was scheduled to start at 1:30 a.m., local news reports said.
Doctors at Ancona’s main hospital said the most critically injured, all aged between 14 and 20, had suffered cranial and chest trauma, while others suffered injury to limbs.
State radio said most of the fatalities had suffered crushed skulls.
Ancona Police Chief Oreste Capocasa said the dead teenagers were three girls and two boys, and that the adult had accompanied her daughter to the disco, the Italian news agency ANSA said.
ANSA earlier had reported that someone had sprayed an irritant, which triggered the panic. Minister Salvini said there possibly was a “stink” of something that could have been ammonia or another substance. Investigators were looking into similar accounts from survivors.
Some survivors were also quoted by Italian media as saying at least one fire exit was blocked when concertgoers tried to get out. But Salvini said initial investigation “appears to knock down that possibility.”
Fire commander Poggiali said it was too early in the investigation to know if any safety violations might have played a role. He said that when rescuers arrived, all the doors were open.
Poggiali also said he didn’t have any immediately confirmation about use of an irritant.
Firefighters had concentrated on giving first aid to survivors, stretched out on the road outside the club, before starting their investigation, he added.
Salvini vowed that responsibility would be determined for the “six broken lives — whoever out of nastiness, stupidity or greed transformed an evening of partying into tragedy.”
Italy’s head of state, President Sergio Mattarella, demanded “full light be shone on what happened, ascertaining any responsibility and negligence.”
“Citizens have the right to safety wherever they are, in workplaces as well as places of entertainment,” Mattarella said in a statement. “Safety must be assured with special commitment in places where crowds gather, through rigorous inspection and checks. One cannot die this way.”
At the Vatican, Pope Francis bowed his head in silent prayer after he told some 30,000 pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square that he was praying “for the young people and the mamma” as well as for the many injured.
Italian high schools are usually open on Saturdays, but schools were closed this weekend for the Dec. 8 national holiday of the Immaculate Conception. That could have made it more likely that young teenagers were at the disco in the wee hours.