Illinois concertgoers free selves, others after theater roof collapse; one dead, 28 injured

·3 min read

Hasib Neaz was waiting for death metal band Morbid Angel to take the stage at a concert in Illinois as howling winds slammed a fire door open and shut, again and again.

The 34-year-old had come from Des Plaines for the concert Friday night at the Apollo Theatre in Belvidere. He felt something wet hit his hand. He just had time to wonder if someone had spilled a beer on him when everything went black.

"I heard a rumble, and I felt something hit hard on my head," Neaz said. "I looked around and was like: 'Holy crap, the whole roof collapsed' ... Is this a freaking dream or what?"

Neaz and about 10 other members of the audience began lifting heavy roofing material off others who had been trapped beneath a section of roof – which had collapsed as high winds and storms ripped through the region.

While several people lifted timbers, Neaz helped dazed and bloody audience members get out from under the rubble.

The collapse killed a 50-year-old man and injured 28 people.  Five people were in critical condition as of late Saturday, officials said. No emergency personnel were injured in the response.

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'Time is running out'

An opening act had finished playing and organizers had called for a 30-minute pause in the heavy-metal concert because of the severe weather and high winds, Neaz said.

Crews were clearing the stage and some audience members were browsing the band merchandise area when the roof caved in. About 260 people were in the building at the time, including audience members and event staff.

As Neaz and other audience members worked to free fellow concertgoers, security personnel urged them to stop what they were doing and take shelter in the basement.

"I was like: 'I'm not going to the basement. There are still people injured,'" Neaz said. "I need to get people out. Time is running out. People could die. They could suffocate in there."

Hasib Neaz, 34 , of Des Plaines, along with other audience members helped lift heavy timbers, insulation and wood pieces off of others trapped after a roof collapsed during a concert Friday, March 31, 2023, at Belvidere's Apollo Theatre.
Hasib Neaz, 34 , of Des Plaines, along with other audience members helped lift heavy timbers, insulation and wood pieces off of others trapped after a roof collapsed during a concert Friday, March 31, 2023, at Belvidere's Apollo Theatre.

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The concertgoers freed five or six people, and Neaz dialed 911 at 7:45 p.m. He said firefighters and police arrived quickly and took over rescue operations. Neaz praised emergency personnel for their response and skill in helping the injured.

Belvidere Mayor Clint Morris praised audience members who helped free one another from the debris and the work of first responders. Morris said having a fire station a block away helped emergency personnel triage and transport the wounded as quickly as possible.

"We were able to get there within minutes. I am so thankful and proud of our first responders," Morris said.

Follow reported Jeff Kolkey on Twitter @jeffkolkey.

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This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: Illinois theater roof collapse leaves 28 injured, one dead amid storms