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Search & Rescue operations underway after severe tornadoes tear across Midwest & South, seven reported dead


Jake Sheridan, Rosemary Sobol, Ariel Cheung
Chicago Tribune

One person has died and nearly 30 were injured during a roof collapse at a Belvidere venue during a metal concert Friday night, officials said.

Belvidere Police Chief Shane Woody said during a late Friday news conference that officers responded to the Apollo theatre, 104 N. State St., where the collapse occurred, leaving one person dead and at least 28 others injured.

The city is approximately 70 miles northwest of Chicago.

“Once we arrived, we conducted a search and rescue of patrons inside Apollo … sole responsibility was to get individuals outside the building,” Woody said.

Once emergency crews were outside, they tried to secure the scene, and escorted people away from the building as best they could, Woody said during the news conference.

“Chaos. Absolute chaos,” Woody said. “When first responders got there, they tried to control the chaos as best as possible. We tried to go in and save as many people as we possibly can and bring them to safety as best as we can.”

A staffer working at Rockford’s Saint Anthony Medical Center said they treated 12 patients, none of whom had died. The staffer said the victims were split among three hospitals.

Belvidere Mayor Clint Morris’ wife told the Tribune late Friday that he remained at the scene of the Apollo Theater, Morris dropped everything to hustle over there when it happened.

“He’s worried about the residents,” said the mayor’s wife, who asked to not be named.

The establishment was formerly a movie theatre, she said.

Video showed people inside the venue desperately lifting debris from the area in front of the stage to free trapped concertgoers as lightning lit the sky showing through a partially collapsed roof.

Other video showed numerous fire and police vehicles outside the Apollo. The streets were littered in debris, and a large overhanging sign outside the venue’s entrance had fallen.

The town just east of Rockford in northeastern Illinois had been under a tornado warning until 8:30 p.m., the National Weather Service said. Radar indicated a tornado had formed in a large area that included the town, the NWS said.

Heavy metal bands Morbid Angel, Revocation and Skeletal Remains were set to play the venue Friday night, its website showed.

The show was canceled because of “a tornado that hit the Venue,” said a post to the band Morbid Angel’s Facebook page.

“We ask anyone who is still traveling to the venue to please seek shelter and stay safe. We are currently sheltering in place, and want to extend our support and hope that everyone at the show tonight is safe,” the band wrote. “Right now our focus is on making sure everyone in the venue tonight is OK and gets home.”

Local leaders shared their concern as the emergency developed.

“Praying for those involved in the Apollo Theater incident and the Belvidere community. Please join me,” said state Rep. Maurice West of Rockford.

Fellow Rockford State Rep. Dave Vella, who represents Belvidere, warned of the collapses possible lasting impact.

“It seems they might be individuals hurt and in bad shape. I understand this might be hard for our community. Please pray for them and prepare with me to help those that need it. We are nothing if we don’t take care of our neighbors. Good luck and god bless to all,” he wrote on Facebook.

This is a developing story. Check back for more updates.

Tribune reporter Rosemary Sobol contributed.

©2023 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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