‘I’ll never go back now’: SU community on edge after ceiling tile falls at Westcott Theater
Richie Calabro’s head is still bleeding more than 24 hours later.
At first, Calabro thought he had been hit by someone crowd-surfing at the sold-out Dada Life concert. He soon realized that a cement tile fell from the Westcott Theater’s ceiling, cutting his head and drenching him in blood.
Calabro, a senior broadcast journalism major, has 20 staples in the right side of his head and several cuts on his neck and upper back.
Several other concertgoers were injured by the collapse of the ceiling, which also caused a Datsik dubstep concert slated for Wednesday night to be rescheduled for Jan. 15.
All tickets purchased for the Wednesday concert will be valid at the later date, according to a release posted on the Westcott Theater’s Facebook page.
The Westcott Theater has several upcoming concerts scheduled, including a sold-out Matt and Kim concert slated for Thursday night. The status of these upcoming concerts remains unknown.
The exact number of injured individuals also remains unknown, as not all those injured chose to seek care at nearby hospitals.
Doretta Royer, hospital and media relations manager at Upstate Medical University, said she only knew of one individual admitted to the hospital for care. At around 2 a.m. Wednesday, an administrative supervisor at the hospital said three people came in from the theater and their conditions were unknown.
Westcott Theater employees did not respond to multiple calls and emails requesting comment. An employee declined to comment early Wednesday morning after the Dada Life concert.
Representatives from the Westcott Theater have not yet reached out to Calabro, although he did interact with one Westcott employee.
“I was sitting on the curb and the guy was trying to tell me that a ceiling fan fell instead of the tile,” Calabro. “But I knew what happened. I’ve heard nothing from them.”
For most of Wednesday, the status of the Datsik concert remained uncertain. At approximately 1:30 p.m., the Westcott Theater posted a release on its Facebook page addressing the ceiling tile’s collapse for the first time.
“We at the Westcott Theater pride ourselves on providing a safe environment for all our patrons to enjoy live music and are truly sorry that something like this had to happen at one of our events,” the theater said in the release. “We hope that any patrons affected are okay.”
In the release, theater officials said the theater was working with the Syracuse Fire Department, the codes department and a structural engineer to determine if it would be safe to hold the concert.
An hour later, the theater posted another release to its Facebook page stating that the Datsik concert was still on, but to watch for further details.
But at around 5:30 p.m., the Westcott Theater posted on its Facebook page that the concert was canceled and would be rescheduled for Jan. 15.
I had no idea what happened. We all looked up and there was a hole in the ceiling.
Allie Baynes, a sophomore undeclared major in the College of Arts and Sciences
Alexander Marion, press secretary in the Syracuse Mayor’s Office, said in an email that for the theater to reopen, the owners needed to submit an engineer’s report to the Fire Department, demonstrating the structural integrity of the roof. As of 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, city officials had not received the report, he said.
Saad Al-Jadir, general manager for Datsik, confirmed the change of date in an email on Wednesday afternoon.
At about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Datsik responded to the rescheduling of the show via a tweet from his account, @datsik: “Sorry bout the show Syracuse. Fire marshal ruined our fun. @dadalife brought the roof down last night, venue now deemed unsafe for work :(”
Sgt. Tom Connellan of the Syracuse Police Department said SPD had no involvement in the Westcott Theater incident and referred all questions to the Syracuse Fire Department, who could not be reached for comment.
For some students, there were early signs of the ceiling tile’s collapse. Elizabeth Dreeson, a sophomore newspaper and online journalism major, has attended about 10 concerts at the theater and previously noticed a weakness in the ceiling.
“I was at a concert last semester and I saw stuff from the ceiling coming down,” Dreeson said. “I assumed it was because of the loud bass.”
The ceiling tile collapsed with only 10 minutes of the concert left, said Allie Baynes, a sophomore undeclared major in the College of Arts and Sciences. Dada Life had just finished playing its remix of the song “This S*** is Bananas” and was beginning to play “Kick Out the Epic Motherf******” when the ceiling tile fell. Baynes said the band didn’t stop playing, although it did lower the volume.
“But I think that’s because someone told them too,” she said.
Baynes did not suffer any injuries, but she said she saw a person in front of her pass out. Baynes’ boyfriend was hit in the head with part of the tile.
“I had no idea what happened,” she said. “We all looked up and there was a hole in the ceiling.”
Baynes said it looked like something had fallen from above and crashed down through the ceiling tile.
Despite her experience, Baynes said she will not stop attending concerts at the theater. She grew up outside Syracuse and has attended more than 15 concerts at the theater.
“I’ll probably go back,” she said. “Now that that happened, there will be inspections and things to make sure it’s safe.”
But others are less certain.
“I’ll never go back now,” said Calabro, the injured senior broadcast journalism major.
Calabro said he will be heading back home in the next couple of days to meet with more doctors and decide with his parents if he wants to take legal action against the theater.
“Right now I just want to make sure that everything is OK first,” he said.
Although he is feeling better physically, Calabro said he is still in shock.
“It was traumatizing,” he said. “I just can’t believe that out of all of the people it would happen to, it happened to me.”
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