Santa falls victim to Westfield crowd crushers
A midnight stampede inside a Westfield in Sydney caused multiple injuries and saw three people hospitalised when a balloon drop stunt went horribly wrong.
But newly obtained vision of the freak incident shows one particularly recognisable victim being thrown to the ground in the crowd crush - Santa Claus.
Harrowing video captured by terrified onlookers shows the moment the 150-strong crowd of people at Westfield Parramatta surged forward to grab balloons falling from above, filled with gift cards and discount vouchers.
Police and paramedics rushed to the scene in western Sydney just after midnight after reports a number of people had been hurt in a crowd rush, a NSW Police spokesperson confirmed to news.com.au.
One of them was the Westfield Santa, as video from a new angle illustrates, who was behind a wooden sign looking on when the suspended balloons fell from netting.
In the video, Santa is seen being thrown several metres backward onto the ground as the structure collapses on top of him.
The excited crowd had gathered for the balloon-drop event, which launched a 33-hour non-stop shopping spree leading up to Christmas.
According to the Westfield Parramatta website, the balloons were filled with gift cards, retailer discounts and prizes "to help you shop till you drop all night long."
But as a mass of balloons was dropped from a net, the bargain-grab turned dangerous when the crowd rushed forward to grab them, creating a crushing stampede.
Panicked shoppers desperate to escape ran in a frenzy, toppling onto one another and knocking down barricades.
People watching from the levels above could only watch in horror as the chaos unfolded.
Twelve people were treated at the scene; five of them had to be taken to hospital for further treatment, including four men and one woman, a NSW Ambulance spokesperson confirmed.
Three victims taken to Westmead Hospital were suffering serious issues including traumatic chest injuries, neck and back pain as well as nausea and dizziness.
The rest of the victims suffered minor aches and pains to their neck, back and ankles.
"It is incredibly lucky that no one was more seriously injured," NSW Ambulance Inspector Phil Templeman said in a statement.
"As we go into the busy holiday period and many of our shopping centres become crowded with people, we urge the community to be patient and ensure the safety of themselves and those around them."
Paramedics could be seen wheeling the injured out of the shopping centre shortly after midnight.
Westfield told news.com.au that the safety of its customers was its priority.
"Our team acted swiftly to support our customers, contact emergency services and make the area safe," a spokesperson for parent company Scentre Group said.
"Our team are continuing to speak with affected customers directly. We will continue to look into the circumstances surrounding last night's incident."
There will be no ongoing police investigation.