Santa Sent Flying, Shoppers Injured In Westfield Balloon Drop Chaos
Five people were taken to hospital overnight after a pre-Christmas promotion at a Sydney shopping centre went awry.
Dozens of people were knocked over and 12 were injured when the crowd surged, with desperate shoppers trying to grab prize-filled balloons dropped from the ceiling during Westfield Parramatta's "mega balloon drop" at midnight.
Video captured by a shopper showed the chaos inside the crush, with people screaming and shouting as the crowd pushed each other. Christmas displays were sent flying as people jostled to grab balloons, which contained gifts like free coffee vouchers, with by-standers running for safety.
One video showed a man dressed as Santa knocked off his feet as the crowd was pushed back.
Ambulance officers assessed 20 people after the incident, with 12 shoppers treated at the scene and five of those taken to hospital. Three people suffered serious issues including traumatic chest injuries, neck and back pain, nausea and dizziness.
"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.
"Once they were released into the air, the crowd rushed to the balloons and a number of people were knocked over and injured."
NSW Ambulance Inspector Phil Templeman said at a press conference that it was "quite a lucky occurrence that no one was more seriously injured,"
He added many of the injured had "abrasions from being trodden on", rib pain, nausea and dizziness. Two men and a woman were transported in a more serious condition to Westmead Hospital. All injured people are now in stable conditions.
10 News First's Steve Hart reported Westfield had declined to provide a spokesperson on-camera to comment on the incident, but its parent company Scentre Group provided a written statement.
"The safety of our customers, retail partners and people is our priority. Our team acted swiftly to support our customers, contact emergency services and make the area safe," Scentre said.
"Our team are continuing to speak with affected customers directly. We will continue to look into the circumstances surrounding last night’s incident.”
Westfield had been promoting the balloon drop as part of a 33-hour non-stop shop. It has been reported the balloons contained vouchers for free coffee or car parking.
Shoppers claiming to have witnessed the event slammed the chaos on social media .
"The most ridiculous, unorganised thing I've witnessed!" said one person.
"Got hardly any sleep last night because the whole thing was just traumatising, and then to have to run and.... pull people and kids from the crowd and provide first aid," said another person.