Conflicting stories have risen regarding an incident that occurred on the Ben Franklin Parkway Thursday night as thousands gathered to celebrate the Fourth of July at the Welcome America Festival.
Police say someone fired a BB gun into the crowd, triggering a large group of people to run down the parkway in a panic.
According to the Associated Press, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison says someone lit a firecracker and threw it to the ground, causing some people in the crowd to run.
Gillison says a couple of people fell to the ground.There have been no immediate reports of serious injuries, but after the incident there were a number of postings on social media from people saying they thought there had been a shooting. Police say the shooting rumors are not true.
Despite the confusion over what exactly caused the incident on the parkway, some people in attendance described it as a chaotic, stampede-like scene.
Robert Quartucci, 54, said he and a friend were standing on the parkway near 21st street taping footage of the fireworks finale when a large group of people came running in their direction.
“I saw just masses of people running towards us in sheer panic. There were people screaming, people crying, my friend was shaking like a leaf,” Quartucci said.
“If you were in the middle of the Parkway there was a good chance that you could have been trampled. I mean afterward we saw people’s bags and people’s shoes; it looked like people just left everything where they were and took off running. For people with kids it had to be terrible. It was just a scary experience.”
Several readers took to NBC10’s Facebook page to share their experiences.
Frank Weindel wrote: “I was walking on the 2200 block of the parkway alongside Park Towne Place Apartments when a rush of panicked people started running away from the parkway. It was scary to say the least, some people tripped, dropped belongings, and lost touch with friends/family. It was like a scene out of a movie.”
Gerard Nolan wrote: “It was definitely a stampede. I was absolutely terrified because of the crowd, but more so because I didn’t know what we were running from. After about 30 seconds of running, the crowd seemed to calm down. We just left at that point, totally spooked, and we didn’t care that we missed the grand finale. We just wanted to go home.”
No arrests have been made in the incident.