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Theatergoer: 'I started hearing noises, screaming'

Friday - 12/20/2013, 2:32am  ET

A woman lies on a stretcher surrounded by rescue workers, awaiting evacuation following an incident during a performance at the Apollo Theatre, in London's Shaftesbury Avenue, Thursday evening, Dec. 19, 2013, with police saying there were "a number" of casualties. It wasn't immediately clear which part of the building had collapsed. The London Fire Brigade said the theatre was almost full, with around 700 people watching the performance. A spokesman added: "It's thought between 20 and 40 people were injured." (AP Photo by Joel Ryan, Invision)

The Associated Press

Scott Daniels, an American tourist from the Dallas area, was in the audience Thursday night when the Apollo Theatre partially collapsed, injuring more than 80 people. In an interview with The Associated Press from his hotel room, Daniels recounted his experience (edited for clarity):

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I'm visiting in London for three days before going to Germany to see my son, who's on a Fulbright grant, and to spend Christmas with him.

The Apollo Theatre is on Shaftesbury in the Piccadilly Circus area. I just happened to go by at 6:30 tonight and see if they had any tickets left. I just needed a single. It's the play "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," based on the novel by Mark Haddon. I'd read the book, and it's on a lot of book lists for a lot of school kids. It's gotten huge, great reviews in London, and it's all sold out.

But they had one ticket available on the floor. I paid top dollar -- 57 ½ pounds (US$ 94). I was in Row G, on the aisle, Seat 10, and that was in the center of the theater. And this theatre was almost completely full. I was lucky to get one seat that they had left over.

The show began at 7:30 local time in London. About 40 to 45 minutes into the show, there was a lot of action going on onstage, and I was like maybe six rows back from the stage -- it's a very intimate theater -- and all of a sudden from behind, up in the balconies in the upper levels, I started hearing noises, screaming. And first of all I thought, maybe this is part of the play. There had been actors coming in from the aisles to go up on stage, so it wasn't unheard of to think maybe it was part of the play.

All of a sudden, plaster starts raining down, huge hunks of plaster. It's still all in my hair. The lights went out and everything filled with dust -- everybody was coughing and choking. I had on a white shirt, and it's all covered -- it looks like soot. My face looks like I've just come out of a fire area. It's all blackened.

The theater filled with dust. I was wearing glasses so it was on my glasses and I couldn't see, but I knew where I was. So I went directly toward the stage to the front row, headed left because I knew there was an exit. I was covering my head. There was a person that was lying down that I helped up, and we went out the exit.

I had a couple scrapes. Other people had more serious lacerations. I saw one woman, once we got outside, that was hysterical. London Metropolitan Police and fire rescue were trying to calm her down. Ambulances were coming in. Of course, this being London, the holiday season, not knowing if this was structural ceiling collapse -- or, heaven forbid, a bomb ...

My coat is still there, under the rubble somehow. I've got the card of management. Hopefully I'll get my coat back tomorrow.

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Associated Press writers Jackie Quinn and Douglass K. Daniel in Washington contributed to this report.


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