CORINALDO, Italy (AP) — A stampede at a rap concert in an overcrowded Italian disco killed five teenagers early Saturday along with a woman who had brought her daughter to the event, police said. Fifty-three people, including 13 in very serious condition, were reported injured.
Video broadcast on Italian state TV RaiNews24 showed scores of teenagers rushing out of a door and surging toward a low wall near an exit of the Blue Lantern disco in the central Italian 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 told Sky TG24 News.
The dead teenagers’ ages ranged from 14 to 16 and the mother who was killed was 39, said Col. Cristian Carrozza, commander of the Ancona province Carabinieri paramilitary police.
The stampede left 53 people injured, with 13 of them in very serious condition, an Ancona interior ministry official said.
Italian rapper Sfera Ebbasta, who is popular with young teenagers, was to perform at the venue. Authorities said the organizers had sold too many tickets.
Ancona Chief Prosecutor Monica Garulli told reporters at the scene that about 1,400 tickets were sold for a venue that has a capacity of about 870 people.
“(It’s) probably true that there were … more people inside than was permissible,” said Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
The stampede occurred shortly after 1 a.m., less than 30 minutes before the concert was to start.
Italian media quoted concertgoers as saying that someone had sprayed an irritant, which triggered the panic. Salvini said there apparently was a “stink” of something that could have been ammonia or another irritating substance. Investigators were looking into similar accounts from survivors.
Ancona Police Chief Oreste Capocasa said the dead teenagers were three girls and two boys, the Italian news agency ANSA said. State radio said most of the dead had their skulls crushed in the melee.
Doctors at Ancona’s main hospital said the most critically injured, all between 14 and 20 years old, had suffered cranial and chest traumas, while others had injuries on their arms or legs.
Sfera Ebbasta wrote on Twitter that he was “deeply pained” by the tragedy, thanked rescuers and offered his “affection and support” to the families of the dead and the injured. Out of respect to them, he said he was cancelling some upcoming promotional appearances.
The rapper said he didn’t want to “express judgment” on those responsible but added he wanted everyone to “to stop and think how dangerous and stupid it is to use pepper spray in a discotheque.”
Fire commander Poggiali said it was too early in the investigation to know if any safety violations might have played a role in the tragedy. He said when rescue workers arrived, all the doors to the disco were open.
Firefighters concentrated at first on helping survivors, who were stretched out on the road outside the club, before starting their investigation, he said.
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 that a “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. “Safety must be assured with special commitment in places where crowds gather, through rigorous inspection and checks.”
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 at the concert.
Italian high schools, which are usually open on Saturdays, 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 out at such a late concert.