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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 14:37 GMT
Witnesses recall club crush panic
Crush survivors
Survivors spoke of pandemonium in the club
Witnesses at the Epitome Night Club in the US city of Chicago have been speaking of their horror after at least 20 fellow clubbers were crushed to death in a stampede.

Club goer Reggie Clark said: "Everybody smashed; people crying, couldn't breathe. Two ladies next to me died. A guy under me passed out."

People were stomping my legs

Kristy Mitchell
Another witness, 33-year-old Cory Thomas, who was waiting outside the club to pick up friends, said: "You could see a mound of people. People were stacking on top of each other, screaming and gagging...

"The door got blocked because there were too many people stacked up against it," Mr Thomas said.

"I saw them taking out a pregnant woman. She was in bad shape. I saw at least 10 lifeless bodies."

Kristy Mitchell, 22, told how she was trampled on a stairway.

"People were stomping my legs," she said. "When they pulled me up, I was dizzy and I couldn't breathe."

Police officer Ozzie Rodriguez said a disturbance inside the club had set off "mass chaos".

It wasn't nothing but two girls fighting. Why'd they have to spray Mace?

Amishoov Blackwell
He said most of the dead "appear to have been crushed or had injuries due to suffocation," when people headed for the same exit.

Clubber Amishoov Blackwell appears to have had a lucky escape having just arrived at the club when the stampede started.

He said he was checking his coat at the second-floor cloakroom when people surged out, pushing him back down the stairs.

The 30-year-old from Gary, Indiana said people started tripping halfway down the stairwell, falling on those ahead of them.

He said he was trapped in the stairwell for about half an hour, lying on top of the bodies, until firefighters rescued him.

"It wasn't nothing but two girls fighting. Why'd they have to spray Mace?" Mr Blackwell is quoted as saying, referring to the incident believed to have triggered the stampede.

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The BBC's June Kelly
"The people who died were either crushed or suffocated"
See also:

17 Feb 03 | Americas
21 Dec 01 | Europe
06 Dec 02 | Country profiles
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