One Dead and Dozens Hurt in Roof Collapse at Illinois Theater

Crypta, a Brazilian death metal band, had just finished a set at an Illinois theater on Friday when the venue made an announcement: The show would be halted for half an hour due to dangerous weather outside.

A few minutes later, the roof collapsed.

“At first, I was confused because it felt like an earthquake, and I was thinking, ‘Why would there be an earthquake right now?'” said Chris Bryant, 39, an audience member at the concert who narrowly escaped. from an injury to the Apollo Theater in Belvidere, Ill.

“As soon as it happened,” he added, “I saw the whole roof come crashing down on everyone, basically right where we were standing.”

At least one person died and at least 28 others were hospitalized after the “total collapse of the roof” at the Apollo, Shawn Schadle, the city’s fire chief, said Friday night, adding that five people suffered serious injuries.

It could have been much worse. Chief Schadle said there were 260 people inside the building; that his front awning had also collapsed; and that emergency workers in the area had dealt with an electrical fire behind the venue, several gas leaks, and an elevator rescue around the same time.

“Lots, lots of ambulances,” he said. told reporters at the scene as the flashing red lights from nearby fire trucks bounced off his uniform. “Many, many responders.”

Chief Schadle said everyone at the scene had been accounted for and emergency workers were “seeking stabilization of the building.” The Apollo has hosted a variety of musical performances, including vaudeville and mariachisince the 1920s.

The roof collapses in Belviderea city of about 25,000 people that is less than 90 miles from Chicago and Milwaukee, was one of several fatal weather-related episodes in the southern and midwestern United States on Friday.

A deadly storm system spawned ferocious tornadoes that killed at least three people in Arkansas and two in Indiana, and injured at least 30 in the city of Little Rock, Ark. alone.

By the end of the day, more than 16 million people from Texas to Michigan were under a tornado watch. In Arkansas, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ office said she planned to inspect the tornado damage on Saturday.

Belvidere is in an area that experienced strong gusty winds Friday night, and Illinois was one of several Midwestern, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states where residents were under high wind warnings as dawn approached on Saturday. But it was not immediately clear if a tornado or just general bad weather had caused the roof to collapse. The National Weather Service only said that the Apollo had suffered “possible tornado damage.”

Whatever the cause, the crash was so unexpected that it left some audience members “in a daze, not knowing what to do,” said Bryant, who works in the information technology industry and lives near Algonquin, Illinois.

“I stood there for probably 10 seconds before I realized there were a bunch of people under the roof,” he said.

Footage circulating on social media appeared to show concertgoers trying to find people under the rubble inside the venue. Mr. Bryant said he helped get about five people out and then he told firefighters which victims to prioritize.

“A few minutes later, I saw the guy I was standing next to during the concert,” he added. “They had a sheet over him.”

The crowd had come to see Crypt and three other metal bands: Revocation, Skeletal Remains and Morbid Angel. They will travel across the country this spring as part of a tour called “The United States of Terror.”

Neither musician could be immediately reached for comment after the disaster, but Crypta said on Instagram that everyone was safe.

morbid angelthe main act based in Florida, said in a Facebook post that its members were still sheltering in place. “Right now our focus is making sure everyone in the venue tonight is safe and coming home,” the band said.

As for Mr. Bryant, he was still processing what had happened.

“The guy I was standing with is dead and I’m sitting at home, comfortable on my couch,” he said by phone. “So it’s definitely surreal.”

emily cochrane contributed reporting.