Wal-Mart Employee Trampled to Death
A Wal-Mart employee in suburban New York died after he was trampled by a crush of shoppers who tore down the front doors and thronged into the store early Friday morning, turning the annual rite of post-Thanksgiving bargain hunting into a Hobbesian frenzy.
At 4:55 a.m., just five minutes before the doors were set to open, a crowd of 2,000 anxious shoppers started pushing, shoving and piling against the locked sliding glass doors of the Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y., Nassau County police said. The shoppers broke the doors off their hinges and surged in, toppling a 34-year-old temporary employee, Jdimypai Damour, 34, of Jamaica, Queens, who had been waiting with other workers in the store’s entryway.
People did not stop to help the employee as he lay on the ground, and they pushed against other Wal-Mart workers who were trying to aid Mr. Damour. The crowd kept running into the store even after the police arrived, jostling and pushing officers who were trying to perform CPR, the police said.
“They were like a stampede,” said Nassau Det. Lt. Michael Fleming. “Hundreds of people walked past him, over him or around him.”
Mr. Damour was taken from the Wal-Mart to nearby Franklin Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:03 a.m., the police said. His exact cause of death has not been determined. The police said that three other shoppers were injured and a 28-year-old woman who was eight months pregnant was taken to the hospital for observation.
One shopper, Kimberly Cribbs, said she was standing near the back of the crowd at around 5 a.m. on Friday when people started rushing into the store. She said several people were knocked to the ground, and parents had to grab their children by the hand to keep them from being caught in the crush.
“They were falling all over each other,” she said. “It was terrible.”
Crowds began building outside the Wal-Mart at 9 p.m. Thursday and grew throughout the night, as eager shoppers queued up in a line that filled the sidewalk and stretched toward the boundary fence of the Green Acres Mall.
At 3:30 a.m., store employees called the Nassau police to report that the crowd was growing quickly, the police said. Officers came by to try to organize the line, but were called away to a Circuit City, a Best Buy and a B.J.’s Wholesale Club nearby, to deal with crowds there.
A half-dozen Wal-Mart employees lined up in the entryway trying to hold back the crowd by pushing against the locked sliding doors, but they were overwhelmed by the force of the crowd, Lieutenant Fleming said.
As the doors snapped open and people streamed in, several people fell on top of one another. The 34-year-old employee who died was at the bottom of the pile, the police said.
On Friday, Wal-Mart released a statement saying that the man who was killed had been working for Wal-Mart through a temp agency. The company called the death “a tragic situation,” and said it was working with police.
“The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority,” Wal-Mart said in a statement.
Lieutenant Fleming said that the store “could have done more” to prevent the melee.
“I’ve heard other people call this an accident, but it’s not,” he said. “This certainly was foreseeable.”