Horrifying Video Shows Stampede After Mall Christmas Giveaway Goes Wrong

Five people were hospitalized Tuesday after a frantic stampede at the Westfield Parramatta shopping center in suburban Sydney, multiple videos show.

The crowd had gathered at midnight beneath large nets of balloons containing vouchers and gift cards for nearby shops. Within seconds of the balloons going airborne, people rushed toward them, pummeling fellow shoppers in the process.

The event was part of a 33-hour Christmas shopping marathon at Westfield, which featured a slogan that's now taken on a darker meaning: "Shop until you drop."

Hundreds of people immediately fell to the ground or were flung outward into a Christmas display as the crowd compressed and shoppers lurched for gift cards worth as little as $5, according to available footage and Nine News Melbourne.

Even as people began screaming and passing small children up and away from the chaos, shoppers continued to search for unclaimed prizes, witnesses said.

"People were just going crazy, yelling, fighting over these balloons," a participant told Nine News in an interview. "Literally like there was a million dollars in each of these balloons."

A midnight stunt in the middle of a Christmas shopping marathon has put five people in hospital.

A stampede broke out at a Sydney Westfield when shoppers rushed to grab balloons filled with prizes. @LizzieBryan1 #9News pic.twitter.com/OV9AFIdXiS

— 9News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) December 24, 2019
Twitter

Paramedics treated 12 shoppers, according to New South Wales Ambulance Inspector Phil Templeman. Three were taken to nearby hospitals for traumatic chest injuries, back pain, nausea and dizziness, while two victims were suffering from mild aches and pains, Templeman said in a statement.

In the footage, those caught in the stampede can be heard screaming "Get up!" "Wait, wait, wait!" and "Hold my hand!" as they were overwhelmed, pushed and trampled by fellow shoppers.

"It definitely could have been potentially critical for a small child who was trampled by a number of adults," Templeman told Nine News at the ambulance station. He said children were not among those hurt.

"Our team are speaking with the affected customers," said a spokesperson for Scentre Group, who owns the Australian shopping chain, in a statement. "We will continue to look into the circumstances of last night's incident."

According to data compiled from news reports by the website Black Friday Death Count, at least a dozen people have died since 2006 in Black Friday–related events such as this one.

In the U.S., shoppers are expected to spend a record $1.01 trillion on gifts this year, up nearly 4 percent from the previous holiday season, according to eMarketer. Australia's holiday spending will also see an increase, to more than $52.7 billion in 2019, according to market research company Roy Morgan.

Fans Gather at Westfield Eastgardens in July
Fans line up at Westfield Eastgardens for the release of new Coles Little Shop mini-collectibles on July 13 in Sydney. Hanna Lassen/Getty Images