Second person dies after crowd surge during Rochester concert; Syracuse woman listed in critical condition
UPDATE: Rochester police said Monday evening that a second victim has died after the crowd surge at a concert Sunday night at the Main Street Armory.
On Tuesday, that victim was identified as 35-year-old Brandy Miller of Rochester.
On Monday, police identified the first woman who died as 33-year-old Rhondesia Belton of Buffalo.
Another person at the concert who was critically injured, is a 35-year old woman from Syracuse. She has not been named yet.
Several city and state agencies have launched an investigation into the incident, which also resulted in non-life-threatening injuries to seven other people.
Mayor Malik Evans and Rochester Police Chief David Smith said Monday that agencies including the Rochester Police Department, the city's Fire Marshal’s Office, the New York State Liquor Authority, and the city’s Code Enforcement Office will investigate the incident.
Evans and Smith said a top priority of the investigation will be to determine whether the event was over capacity or whether specific conditions at the Armory contributed to the situation.
The Main Street Armory has a maximum capacity of 5,000, according to the Rochester Fire Department. It is unclear how many people were at Sunday's show.
A noticeably irate Evans vowed to get to the bottom of what led to the incident.
“This is a tragedy of epic proportions, and it’s something that all of us who love concerts worry about,” Evans said. “When you go to a concert, you do not expect to be trampled. Your loved ones expect you to come home, and talk about that great experience you had at that concert.”
The fatal incident occurred after a concert that featured the musical acts GloRilla and Finesse2tymes. At just past 11 p.m., a rush of people began pushing to the front entrance of the Armory, which faces Main Street. It’s unclear what caused the initial rush.
Charles Switzer, 43, was among the people trapped in the stampede. He said he was standing right beside Belton and saw her get trampled.
“Everybody was just walking and walking, and the next thing you know, people were saying, ‘They’re shooting, they’re shooting, I heard gunshots,’” Switzer said. “I never heard any gunshot, not one time. All I know is people started rushing to the door.”
The Rochester Police Department is investigating whether a shooting took place at the event, but officers have yet to find evidence that one happened. Meanwhile, concert-goers have speculated that a confetti gun fired from the stage touched off the surge.
Switzer said he felt as if he was being “pushed by a stream of water” as the crowd tried to force its way through one of only two doors open at the time of the surge. He said he hurt his wrist during the incident and felt Monday like he was “trampled by 30 horses.”
“I don’t even know how I made it out of that,” Switzer said. “I wouldn’t allow myself to fall to my chest, I was on my hands and knees, but I had like five or six people on top of me trying to crawl out of there.”
Switzer said he will never go to a concert again unless it’s outside.
In a Twitter post, GloRilla offered prayers to those injured at the concert.
I’m just now hearing about what happened wtf 😢😢😢praying everybody is ok 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼— GloRilla 🦍 (@GloTheofficial) March 6, 2023
In a Facebook post, concert promoter RMG Entertainment offered condolences, and asked for assistance in getting in touch with the deceased’s family.
“Really breaks my heart that such a dope night ended in such tragedy,” the post reads. “After the police investigation there was no evidence of shots fired, so we are still working closely to figure out what exactly led to these unfortunate events.”
In August, the Armory was forced to cancel a metal show featuring Anthrax, Black Label Society, and Hatebreed, as the stage began to buckle during Hatebreed’s set.
After that incident, Anthrax bassist Scott Ian put the blame squarely on the Armory for the canceled show.
"Rochester we didn't want to cancel, we had to,” Ian said in a Twitter post. “The stage was broken, the venue did not fix it and it was not safe to continue the show.”
The Main Street Armory is owned by Scott Donaldson and is one of the larger venues in town, with just under 100,000 square feet of space inside the auditorium building. According to city of Rochester property records, the building currently has two outstanding code violations — one for an unauthorized wood-splitting business at the rear of the building and one for an unauthorized dwelling.
The building most recently received a fire inspection in December, and as of January was considered compliant and up to fire code requirements.
Smith, in the news conference, stressed that the investigation is in an early stage, and there has been no determination of wrongdoing.
“We are hearing many reports of potential causes, including crowd size, shots fired, pepper spray, and more,” Smith said. “Our investigators are interviewing surviving victims, concert-goers, security, and everyone else that has potential information as to what led to this tragedy.”
Evans, meanwhile, stressed that there will be accountability, noting the mayor’s office has the power to shut down any venue if it is deemed a safety risk. However, he was unclear if that course of action would be taken.
“When you have a popular artist, you’re going to have a large crowd,” Evans said. “So the question will be were the appropriate actions taken? It’s too early to say, but I will say that we have a history in my administration of holding venues accountable.”
Rochester city officials said that on Monday afternoon, they talked with the owner of the Main Street Armory, Scott Donaldson, about upcoming events there.
Donaldson confirmed that the concert scheduled for Saturday, March 11, has been canceled.
City officials say they will meet with Donaldson later this week to discuss the path forward for the Main Street Armory as an entertainment venue.