ROME—Six people were killed, including five teenagers, and several others are in critical condition after someone allegedly dispersed pepper spray into a crowd of young people at an overpacked disco where the popular Italian rapper Sfera Ebbasta was set to perform.
The rush to escape the venue in Corinaldo, near the coastal town of Ancona on the Adriatic Sea led to a stampede, according to local authorities. The stampede resulted in the collapse of a balustrade outside the door which was captured on disturbing video. The dead were all found near the collapsed railing.
A manslaughter investigation has been opened by the Ancona police after some witnesses said the emergency exits of the venue were locked and that the bouncers directed people to exit through the narrow front door of the building.
“We were dancing when we were struck by a pungent odor that burned our eyes,” a teenage boy told Sky Italy. “We ran to one of the emergency exits but it was locked and the bouncers turned us away.”
Italian government officials promised a thorough investigation into the tragedy, vowing to hold those responsible accountable. “We will not stop until we find out how this could have happened,” Italy's vice premier Luigio Di Maio wrote on his Facebook page. “No one should die this way.”
The six people killed, include five teenagers between 14 and 16 years old and the 39-year-old mother of one of the concert attendees. Seven people were clinging to life with critical injuries as of Saturday afternoon. More than 100 people were treated for crushing injuries.
The concert was held at the trendy Lanterna Azzura (Blue Lantern) night club, which has a capacity of around 870. Local authorities say that 1,400 tickets were sold for the event, but there is no official number yet of how many people were still in the club at 1 a.m. when the panic started. The multi-artist concert started at 10 p.m. and was attended mostly by teenagers. Rapper Sfera Ebbasta was the headline act and was just set to perform when the stampede took place.
“From the initial investigation we have verified that more tickets were sold than the place could hold,” Cristian Corrazza, head of Ancona's paramilitary police told ANSA news agency.
Sfera Ebbasta posted a message of profound sorrow for the incident on his Instagram feed.
“I am deeply sorrow for what happened yesterday night at Corinaldo. It’s difficult to find the words to express the regret and sadness of such a tragedy. I don’t want to pass judgement on who is responsible of all this, but I would just like you all to stop and think how dangerous and stupid it can be to use the pepper spray in a disco.
“Thank you to all the people, the ambulances, the police that have carried out the rescue operation during the nigt,” he added. “Music should unite people, let’s hope it will really do so now.” Ebbasta cancelled concerts for the next few weeks out of respect for the victims.