Eight people were injured, seven seriously, when packed shelving units collapsed at a Bronx dollar store.
It happened around 3:45 p.m. on Monday at Discount Outlet in the Melrose neighborhood.
Fire officials say the collapsing shelves created a cascading effect, burying people under piles of merchandise.
Piles of shelving and merchandise were left spilling out of the front windows of the store and onto the street.
Firefighters had to remove the goods by hand and cart them onto the sidewalk.
A fire department spokesman says there was no structural damage to the building.
‘All the shelves just started falling over,’ said Norma Villafane, 59, to News 12 who was shopping when the chaos started
Fire Chief Anthony Montera said more than 100 firefighters helped remove people from the mountains of merchandise. Upon firefighters’ arrival, the scene looked like a building collapse.
‘We had a shelving collapse in the store in the center aisle,’ Montera said. ‘It created a cascading effect. It took down two or three more aisles, and we had the customers in the store – some of them hurt by the debris coming down on them. We removed it. We got seven people out of the debris, all in the early stages.’
A mountain of retail and kitchen grooming products fell on six people inside the store – three adults and three children. A seventh was trapped in the rear.
None of the injuries, which included broken bones, is considered life-threatening. The injured were taken to Lincoln Hospital in stable condition.
More than 60 firefighters responded to the scene.
The fire department says the cause of the shelving collapse is under investigation.
Customer Norma Villafane said she was shopping in a perimeter aisle when she heard ‘a real thunderous sound.’
‘When I turned around, all the shelves were tumbling down,’ she told NBC.
‘You could hear the screaming,’ said witness Lucy Tirado, who was standing outside the store as her husband went in to buy some air freshener. ‘I could hear the lady screaming because her kids were under that mess.’
‘I just saw that the shelf is falling,’ said Filsan Imaan, a cashier at the store. ‘Very scary. I’m still shaking.’
Antonio LaGuerre said it all happened so fast. Before long, people were screaming for help.
‘All the shelves started just falling like a domino effect, and it fell on top of them,’ he said.
‘I started picking stuff out and throwing it off the people. … That’s what I did. I tried to help, but I’m only one person. I’m not Superman,’ he told CBS News.
Responding firefighters had to remove the goods by hand and cart them onto the sidewalk.
City and federal inspectors combed through the store trying to pinpoint the cause, confirming what many customers already suspected – the shelves were overloaded.