CHICAGO — A 50-year-old man died and about 40 people were injured in a northern Illinois roof collapse Friday night at a metal concert featuring a Tampa Bay area band.
Two of the injured at the Apollo Theatre in Belvidere, near Rockford, were in a “life-threatening” condition, according to Dan Zaccard, director of Boone County emergency management agency. The deceased man’s name was not released.
The Belvidere Fire Department along with several surrounding first responders flooded the scene of the Apollo Theatre following a call of a collapse.
“A man lost his life, response was in minutes,” Mayor Clinton Morris said. “We always hope for the best, and the best would’ve been no fatalities.”
Morris said the tragedy could have been worse, but thanked all of the first responders who arrived at the scene to help. He said many of the concertgoers stayed and picked up debris trapping the injured until help arrived.
Scheduled to play that night was Tampa-based death metal band Morbid Angel, which was headlining the show and returns to Tampa this month, as well as other bands.
The building dates back to 1921. So far, officials said the building is condemned, but were waiting on structural engineers to make the final determination. Officials said the owner of the building was devastated to learn of the deceased man and the injured.
Even as a cold wind hit, the Belvidere community continued to gather near the theater in the afternoon as authorities worked to clean up the debris. Some mourned not only the death from the tragedy but also an area in the city that will “no longer ever be the same,” said Randy Watson, a lifelong Belvidere resident.
When he was a child Watson would go inside the theater to watch movies for “just one buck,” he recalled. It was about 20 years ago when the place changed and more recently it had been used mostly by the Latino community in the area to host weddings and other parties, he said.
The architecture of the theater and other buildings nearby make an important part of the culture of Belvidere, Watson added. “I hope it can be fixed,” he said as he stared at the scene. “But more than anything, I feel for the families that have been affected. I’m sure we will all step in to help in any way we can.”
Mary Kurth and her granddaughter walked over to the scene and stood there for a few minutes. Kurth lives just three blocks away and last night, after learning of the accident, she walked over to the scene because it felt surreal.
In the more than 20 years of living in the town, nothing nearly as tragic has happened, she said. “It looks like a war zone,” Kurth said. “It’s not going to be easy to cope with something like this.”
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Kurth and her 23-year-old granddaughter, Felicia Klassen said they did not know anyone at the concert, but they have been praying for their wellbeing.
It was not clear Saturday if the concertgoers heard the tornado sirens because of the loud music.
Twenty-eight ambulances responded to the scene, and the other injured people got themselves to the hospital. Some of the ambulances made multiple trips, officials said.
Another building across from the Apollo Theatre also sustained structural damage and was facing being condemned.
By Chicago Tribune staff and Deanese Williams-Harris Chicago Tribune (TNS).