Five people have been taken to hospital after a pre-Christmas balloon drop at a Sydney shopping centre caused a dangerous crowd crush.
Police say several people were knocked over and injured when the crowd surged as the prize-filled balloons were released during Westfield Parramatta’s “mega balloon drop” at midnight.
“They were at that location to grab balloons as they were released and apparently the balloons had small gifts inside,” a NSW Police spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
#Australia | Several people injured in Parramatta #Westfield #Christmas giveaway crowd crush.#Sydney mall stunt offering prize-filled balloons goes wrong as shoppers hurt in rush for prizes. https://t.co/LphIipkyW1 pic.twitter.com/07CQdskR9c
— Atlantide (@Atlantide4world) December 23, 2019
Paramedics treated 12 shoppers at the scene and five people were taken to hospital, according to NSW Ambulance.
Inspector Phil Templeman said they had responded to reports the balloon drop “caused a stamped of people to hustle for the prizes”.
“Three of the transported patients had more serious issues including traumatic chest injuries, neck and back pain as well as nausea and dizziness,” Inspector Templeman said on Tuesday.
He said it was “incredibly lucky” that no one was more seriously injured.
“As we go into the busy holiday period and many of our shopping centres become crowded with people, we urged the community to be patient and ensure the safety of themselves and those around them,” he said.
Westfield had promoted the balloon drop as part of a 33-hour non-stop shop.
Shopping centre owner Scentre Group said its team acted swiftly to support customers, contact emergency services and make the area safe.
“The safety of our customers, retail partners and people is our priority,” a spokeswoman said.
“Our team are continuing to speak with affected customers directly.
“We will continue to look into the circumstances surrounding last night’s incident.”
Retailers expressed surprise over the organisation of the event.
“It was pretty insane. It’s been the talk of the morning,” one told the ABC.
“I think it was a bit over the top. It could have been controlled better.
“The concept is good, it just could have been managed and policed a bit better.”