Seven people ‘seriously injured’ by Apollo ceiling collapse

Authorities says 58 people brought to hospital following incident at London theatre

Paramedics attend to an injured person at the Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, central London, last night after part of celining collapsed during a performance. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.

Paramedics attend to an injured person at the Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, central London, last night after part of celining collapsed during a performance. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.

Fri, Dec 20, 2013, 08:25

Almost 80 people were injured, seven seriously, after a theatre ceiling collapsed on them in London’s West End.

Eyewitnesses described “chaos and panic” last night as parts of the Apollo theatre “began to crumble down” around them.

Masonry and ornate plaster from the Grade II listed theatre collapsed on to the stalls below, dragging a section of the balcony with it, striking members of the packed audience and filling the theatre with clouds of thick dust.

More than 700 people were inside the Shaftesbury Avenue venue - which was 45 minutes into the National Theatre’s performance of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time - when members of the audience started screaming as it appeared parts of the ceiling caved in.

Nimax Theatres, which owns the Apollo, described the incident as “shocking an upsetting”.

Police commandeered three London buses to take the injured to hospital, many of whom were described as “walking wounded” and were left bloodied and bandaged, and a makeshift triage was set up at the Gielgud Theatre.

London Ambulance Service said it treated 76 patients, of whom 58 were taken to four hospitals. Of those, 51 had suffered minor injuries and seven more serious injuries. There were no fatalities.

Theatre-goer Khalil Anjarwalla said he, his heavily pregnant wife and her parents managed to escape from the theatre safely after “kilos of concrete plummeted from the ceiling”.

“The actors just seemed to run from the stage. They had obviously seen what had happened. We initially thought it was part of the show. Thankfully we are all OK. My wife is seven months’ pregnant but she is OK. We feel very blessed.”

Photographs from inside the theatre showed heavy beams and wood strewn across seats, which were coated in debris and dust.

Chief Supt Paul Rickett said there was no suggestion at this stage that the incident was as a result of a criminal act but that police were keeping “an open mind”.

Sean Walsh, who was visiting the show with his girlfriend, said they were sitting in the balcony when they first spotted a group of people below them shouting to leave the theatre immediately.

“We were right up in the gods and a couple in the group below just said ‘Go’,” he said.

“We thought they were just leaving because maybe they were bored, and my girlfriend thought maybe they had seen a mouse. But then the whole of the ceiling just came down.”

The theatre is now sealed off and the search of the building “now complete” London Fire Brigade said.

PA