Officials: 1 killed, 48 hurt in roof collapse at Illinois theater

Damage at Apollo Theatre in downtown Belvidere
Damage at Apollo Theatre in downtown Belvidere(23 WIFR)
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 9:25 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 31, 2023 at 10:34 PM CDT
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BELVIDERE, Ill. (WIFR/Gray News) - One person is dead and at least 48 others were hospitalized after the roof collapsed at a theater in Illinois as storms moved through the region.

WIFR reports officials at the scene say approximately 260 people were in the Apollo Theatre in Belvidere at the time of the roof collapse. Firefighters say they were dispatched a little before 8 p.m. Friday.

Officials say the call came minutes after receiving word from the National Weather Service about a tornado warning in the area.

Preliminary information from officials revealed that one person, a 51-year-old man, died at the scene, and dozens were injured. Emergency agencies and law enforcement from around the area were called in to help with the incident.

Seven EMS agencies were called to the scene with some of them making multiple trips to different hospitals, according to the Belvidere Fire Department. A response of more than 100 firefighters and paramedics from Boone, Winnebago and McHenry County made rescue and evacuation attempts.

Chief Shawn Schadle, with the Belvidere Fire Department, says a treatment, triage and reunification center was set up nearby the fire station where numerous patients were treated. An MABAS 8 Technical resource team, which is a specialized search and rescue team made up of 23 agencies, searched the area until they gave it all clear at 11:06 p.m. There have not been any reports of anyone unaccounted for.

As of Saturday morning, 24 patients remained hospitalized and 24 patients were treated and released. Five of the 28 taken by ambulance remain in critical condition.

Schadle says in addition to the roof collapse at the Apollo Theatre, a building across the street had severe wind damage. As of Friday evening, both buildings were searched and crews are assessing their structural integrity.

Officials say the crowd at the theatre helped remove debris, freeing those trapped under the collapsed roof of the historic building. They were later evacuated from the building as officials deemed the building unsafe.

Chief Brian Kunce, with the Boone County Fire Protection District #2, says the building will most likely get torn down as it is not structurally sound.

The band scheduled to perform at the venue, Morbid Angel, posted an update to its fans around 9 p.m. saying the show was canceled “due to a tornado that hit the venue.” The post goes on to say the band was sheltering in place and expressed its hope that everyone at the show was OK and able to get home.

The National Weather Service confirmed that an EF-1 tornado moved across portions of Ogle, Winnebago and Boone counties, which resulted in 1 fatality and 48 injuries due to the roof collapse at the Apollo Theatre.

Damage assessments of the entire area are being performed, according to the Belvidere Fire Department.

Governor Pritzker tweeted following the roof collapse saying in part, “I’ve been in touch with officials for updates and to direct any available resources we can.”