A stampede spurred by rumors of gunfire at a crowded arena on Sunday killed two people and left a third in critical condition after a show by the Grammy-nominated rapper GloRilla in Rochester, N.Y., the police said.
The stampede began after a performance by GlorRilla, the stage name of the Memphis-based rap artist Gloria Hallelujah Woods, just after 11 p.m. at the Main Street Armory, Chief David Smith of the Rochester Police Department said in a news conference on Monday.
“There are some reports that shots were heard, causing the crowd to panic,” said Chief Smith, adding that investigators had found no evidence of gunfire.
“We are hearing many reports of potential causes, including crowd size, shots fired, pepper spray and more,” the Police Department said in a statement. “Preliminary reports from people at the scene indicate that these injuries were caused from being trampled. We do not have any evidence of gunshots being fired or anyone being shot or stabbed.”
The police identified one of the people who died as Rhondesia Belton, 33, but did not release the name of the second victim on Monday night.
The police said one woman remained in critical condition on Monday after she was taken to the hospital with significant injuries on Sunday night. An additional seven people went to local hospitals on Sunday night with non-life-threatening injuries, which the chief said appeared to have been caused by trampling.
On Monday, a local Rochester news station, WHEC-TV, interviewed concertgoers who survived the stampede. They returned to the arena to look for personal belongings they had lost in the chaos, include earrings, keys and cellphones.
One of them, Ikea Hayes, recounted “watching the life flash before my eyes” as she grappled with a woman pinned onto the ground beside her under the crush of other concertgoers. She said they had both been knocked to the ground near the arena entrance.
Ms. Hayes said that she and another woman were “were, like, climbing up on each other.” She added that she had been on the ground praying and telling herself: “You got to get up. You got to move. If you stay here they’re going to keep running you over.”
Mayor Malik D. Evans of Rochester said at the news conference on Monday that the episode was a “tragedy of epic proportions.” He said the city would begin an investigation into the stampede to determine whether the operators of the arena had followed required safety measures.
“When you go to a concert, you do not expect to be trampled,” he said. “Your loved ones expect you to be able to come home.”
The stampede in Rochester called to mind a similar tragedy in 2021 when a crowd surge at the Astroworld Festival in Houston killed 10 people and injured scores more, leading to a string of lawsuits and a congressional investigation.
GloRilla, whose song “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” was nominated for best rap performance at the Grammy Awards last month, expressed condolences on Twitter shortly after 12 a.m. on Monday.
“I’m just now hearing about what happened,” she wrote. “Praying everybody is ok.”