At least three people were injured during a seating collapsed inside a circus tent at a Winter Funland event, held at the EventCity in Manchester.
Witnesses described the chaotic sequence of events as seats ‘collapsed underneath people’ and a “massive bang” echoed through the venue, before a stampede towards the exit began.
Police and paramedics were called to the Christmas event just before 7pm following reports of the scaffolding collapse.
Stephen Shone, a father who took his wife and children to the show, said his arm became ‘trapped’ in the collapsed seating, said he thought it was part of the show at first, and that later when driving home he cried as he had ‘flashbacks’.
Shone, who was with his wife and two children, aged four and 15.
Shone told the Manchester Evening News (MEN): “There was a bang and the floor just went from beneath us. I remember trapping my arm, but I managed to get it back out. I feel like I’ve been hit by a wagon. We’ve all got pains in our backs and legs.
“I was driving home crying, having flashbacks. It was terrifying. The floor went from beneath our feet. At first, we thought it was part of the show, but it wasn’t. We just fell. Then there was like a stampede – people climbing over each other trying to get out.”
A woman, 44, said she fell to the ground with her four-year-old granddaughter on her knee as audience members fell on her due to the collapse.
Her daughter said: “All we heard was a pole crash. The back bit went down first. We were at the front row. My little girl was on my mum’s knee. My mum fell down. My mum was getting really hurt.
“The stage just went down. Everyone was just falling onto my mum. I was pulling my mum up, and she went down again. My daughter was screaming, she was heartbroken.
“My mum’s leg got stuck. She was trapped for a couple of minutes. The lights went pitch black. Everyone was trying to rush out. We got out as quick as we could. (My mum) had to go for first aid. She is going to A&E, she has to drive herself. She needs an x-ray. She’s just a bit shaken up.”
A witness, who was there with her three young children, said: “We were next to it when it happened. There was a massive bang and people just jumped up and started legging it, wondering what had gone on.
“The stage collapsed underneath people; you could hear it as it went bit by bit. All the lighting went off and you can imagine it was even scarier in the dark. People were screaming and crying – I had a two-year-old in my arms and a four and five-year-old in bits.
“We tried to leave but were told by EventCity staff there no one was allowed to because there were three children missing – thankfully they were found. Staff were really unhelpful, they just kept saying ‘we don’t work for Winter Funland we work for EventCity’ when we were asking for information.”
James Moakes and his partner Sofia Gomes described a scene of ‘panic’ as about 20 seats collapsed near to them. They told the MEN that they initially thought the loud noise had something to do with the performance, but they then saw an ‘entire bench fall down’ as a section of seating ‘collapsed on itself’.
Megan Birtles, who also attended the show, told Mirror Online: “The seats collapsed making a bang, everyone was crying and screaming as we were all guessing what had happened.
“My nephew, who was autistic with ADHD, had made a quick dash for the exit, so I had to run after him. We were then guided into the backs of the building, the kitchen, dining room and then escorted out with paramedics at his side.”
A spokesman for Winter Funland said three people were injured, but that their injuries were minor, and they did not go to hospital.
He said: “The health and safety of our customers is a top priority.”
Winter Funland reopened on 15 December, but the circus will remain closed.
The incident was reported to the Health and Safety Executive.