Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stampede in Long Island: Walmart Worker Killed

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. It is a day of frenzied shopping for millions across America. At a Walmart in Valley Stream, Long Island , the day has been seared into the hearts of the family of a temporary worker at Walmart as a day of mourning. The 34 year old worker, who was not identified was trampled in the moments after the store opened at 5:00 AM.

The Daily News described the stampede as follows:. “A Wal-Mart worker died after being trampled when hundreds of shoppers smashed through the doors of a Long Island store Friday morning, police and witnesses said.

The 34-year-old employee, a temporary maintenance worker, tried to hold back the unruly crowds just after the Valley Stream store opened at 5 a.m.

Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him.”

The article continues to describe a stampede that hindered rescue efforts and caused injury to other shoppers, including a pregnant woman. The closing of the store underscored the gravity of the situation as frenzied shoppers raced the rising sun and other shoppers to snap up bargains.

The scene in Walmart was described in frightening tones by a coworker of the deceased as follows in the Daily News article. “He was bum-rushed by 200 people,” said Jimmy Overby, 43, a co-worker. “They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too…I literally had to fight people off my back.”

It is a good idea to study tragedies such as this to avoid injury and to avoid causing injury and loss of life. I have found it helpful to wait five to ten minutes before joining a crowd that is exiting a theatre. I once found a crowd in front of a store to have a frightening life of its own. My response was to extricate myself and to walk away. It would be glib to blame stores like Walmart for the behavior of their crowds. But retail consultants study everything from the colour of store decorations and their effect on shoppers to what is best placed next to the cash registers. The lethal throng at Walmart seems to suggest a need for crowd control both as a discipline and focus of store design.

This tragedy should be reflected on in order that it not be repeated. A season that is focused on the joy of giving should not be a time of bereavement for anyone. My heart goes out to the family of this man who lost his life in such a terrifying way. How do we behave in crowds. Do we add to the anger or do we exert a calming influence on those around us? What is it like to be a part of a densely packed throng?

I avoid crowds. They make me nervous. There is almost a month of shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Come back later. It’s better for your peace of mind. Sphere: Related Content

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