Theatre witnesses tell of shock at teen's horror plunge during live show

Witnesses today told of their horror after a teenager plunged from a balcony mid-way through a performance of Grease at Blackpool's Grand Theatre.

Saturday, 4th June 2016, 6:00 am
Bosses at the Grand decided the show must go on

The 18-year-old suffered serious spinal injuries after plummeting 50ft and landing on the floor at around 9.30pm on Thursday.

Insp Claire Cooper, from Lancashire Police, said the teen jumped from a section of the upper circle that isn’t open to the public.

The man, who The Gazette has chosen not to name, was taken to Royal Preston Hospital, where he yesterday remained in a serious but not life-threatening condition.

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Grand Theatre chiefs yesterday confirmed last night’s show and today’s two performances would go ahead as planned.

Blackpool mayor Kath Rowson, who was sitting in the dress circle in her mayoral chains, said: “It was an upbeat song and a lot of the cast were on stage singing and dancing the chorus.

“People started rushing to look over the edge of the balcony. They said someone had fallen over.

“The atmosphere changed in a matter of seconds.

“The cast stopped as soon as they realised what was going on, and the curtain came down.

“We were in disbelief.”

The show, based on the hit movie musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, was minutes into its second half — already delayed because a 60-year-old man collapsed in an unrelated incident — when the teen fell during a rendition of Hopelessly Devoted To You, landing in an aisle.

An elderly woman was hit on the shoulder and suffered minor injuries, but did not need medical treatment, police said.

First aider Wendy Mulela, 54, of Sherwood Road in Ansdell, was sitting with her 15-year-old son, Michael Kadenge, and her dad.

She was one of several people who immediately rushed to help him.

She said: “As I got to him people were then getting up in the aisle and screaming, ‘Stop the show, stop the show’, because they were still performing at that point.

“Another guy was holding his head, then this lady, a doctor, was holding his middle.

“He was conscious and we were talking to him.

“We were telling him he was doing really well, and encouraging him to stay as calm as he could.

“People were in tears.”

A loud-speaker announcement then asked guests to leave through the nearest exit as quickly as possible.

Fylde mayor Christine Akeroyd, who was at the show with Coun Rowson, said: “It took me a few seconds to realise what had happened.

“There was no panic as such, people moved out very quickly in a very orderly fashion.

“There was quite a lot of children, and they were very upset. They probably saw a lot more than we did.”

Writing online, Adeline Langton added: “My first thoughts were with the people below. It will take me a while to forget the children’s faces as they came out into the street.”

A spokeswoman for the North West Ambulance Service said the first of several 999 calls was received at 9.18pm.

A rapid response car arrived at the historic venue, in Church Street, four minutes later, while an ambulance turned up at 9.24pm.

She said medics at Royal Preston Hospital were made aware of his impending arrival, such as the seriousness of the injuries to his neck, back, and legs.

Police confirmed they are no longer investigating the incident.

Last night’s performance of Grease was due to go ahead as planned, as will today’s matinee and evening showings.

Phil Chapman, chairman of the Blackpool and Fylde Light Opera Company, the firm behind the production, said: “This has obviously been a shocking and upsetting incident.

“Thankfully, we understand his injuries are not life-threatening and our thoughts are with the young man and his family.

“After consulting both members of the production company and the theatre staff, together we have decided that the show will go on”.

Grand Theatre chief executive Ruth Eastwood added: “This has been a very difficult situation for all concerned.

“The theatre is working with all the relevant authorities to investigate the matter with due diligence.

“Lots of hard work has gone into creating the show, and the company and the young man’s family have received numerous messages of support via social media, and the theatre will offer any support we can.”

The Health and Safety Executive confirmed it is not investigating.