A person was killed and 28 others injured when the roof and marquee of the Apollo Theatre collapsed amid a severe weather warning during a concert in Belvidere, Illinois, on Friday evening.
The sold-out concert, which included death metal bands Morbid Angel, Revocation, Crypta, and Skeletal Remains, began at 7 p.m. The collapse occurred about 30 minutes into the concert while Skeletal Remains was performing.
According to Belvidere Fire Chief Shawn Schadle, five individuals were rushed from the scene with severe injuries, 18 with moderate injuries, and five more with minor injuries, reported CBS.
Schadle said that in addition to clearing the theater, first responders were called to deal with gas leaks, downed powerlines, and trees, and they rescued someone from an elevator.
The fire chief noted around 10 p.m. to reporters that while the area had a tornado warning, he had no current information about whether a tornado actually came through the area.
Initial reports cite severe storms with 90 mph winds blowing through the area around the time of the collapse. The capacity of the theater is around 1,500, and about 260 people were inside, including the crowd, the staff, and the bands.
Video footage from the scene circulating on social media shows the marquee collapsed to the ground, along with a large portion of the bowstring truss roof. Bricks were also seen scattered in the middle of the street, with some debris landing on nearby cars.
Inside the theater, the ceiling right in front of the stage collapsed, leaving the space open to the outside with lightning flashing.
People were likely gathered in front of the stage at the time of the collapse.
It is still unclear whether the severe weather played a direct role in the collapse. The incident is currently under investigation.
Morbid Angel, the headline act for the concert, confirmed its band members were safe.
“Tonights show is canceled due to a tornado that hit the venue, and caused the roof, over the area in front of the stage, and marquee to collapse,” the band wrote on Facebook. “We ask anyone who is still traveling to the venue to please seek shelter and stay safe.”
“We are currently sheltering in place, and want to extend our support and hope that everyone at the show tonight is safe,” the statement continued. “Right now our focus is on making sure everyone in the venue tonight is ok and gets home.”
A guitarist from Crypta, Tainá Bergamaschi, confirmed that all the bands are safe.
“Tornado hit the venue, we lost our RV, but we are ok,” Bergamaschi wrote on Instagram.
The bands were performing on their “United States Tour of Terror 2023” tour.
Belvidere police Chief Shane Woody said the scene was “absolute chaos,” reported CBS.
“When officers are first on the scene, when the fire department and first responders get here, they do the best they can to control the chaos as much as possible,” Woody told reporters. “But ultimately, we go in, and ultimately try and find people, and save as many people as we possibly can, and bring them to safety as best as we can.”
On Friday, the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) of the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a tornado watch for various states in the South and Midwest due to a severe weather outbreak.
The SPC warned of the likelihood of several long-track, strong to potentially violent tornadoes, particularly over parts of the Mid-Mississippi Valley to the Mid-South.
As the day progressed, tornados tore through cities in central Arkansas and parts of eastern Iowa, resulting in the deaths of at least three individuals and hundreds of injuries.
The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences declared a mass casualty event after a “catastrophic” tornado hit Little Rock, leading to over 600 injuries and three deaths.
CBS19 reported that the highest risk of strong, long-track, or potentially violent tornadoes existed across southeast Iowa, western Illinois, and far northeast Missouri, as well as portions of eastern Arkansas, northern Mississippi, and southwest Tennessee.
Hours before Apollo’s roof collapsed, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker issued a warning on Twitter about the severe weather.
“Stay aware as tornadoes, storms, and severe weather continue to move through Illinois tonight!” he wrote. “If you’re in an affected area, take shelter and follow directions from your local officials. Be prepared to continue monitoring any warnings or weather alerts.”
Pritzker’s post included a warning map. The Apollo theater sits outside of the warning area.
“My administration is closely monitoring the roof collapse at the Apollo Theatre in Belvidere tonight,” he wrote. “I’ve been in touch with officials for updates and to direct any available resources we can. As we learn more, please follow the guidance of all local authorities.”