Apollo Theatre attendees left shocked after roof collapses

100 firefighters and paramedics responded to the collapse of the Apollo Theatre's roof collapse.
Published: Apr. 1, 2023 at 11:06 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 2, 2023 at 1:56 AM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The lives of 260 concert goers, whose night of fun and music turned to fear, look a little different today.

People inside of the Apollo Theatre Friday night tell me this was a true tragedy leaving them in shock and their hearts go out to everyone’s family who lost someone or who have a loved one in the hospital.

“I’m just in shock and I’m honestly happy I’m alive,” said one attendee Trista Strommen.

Strommen says she got a birthday present she never wished for while celebrating at a Morbid Angel concert Friday inside Downtown Belvidere’s Apollo Theatre.

“I just felt the entire building rumble and I looked back and I saw the corner of the roof toward the stage starting to fall in and I heard the roof falling, I heard screaming and then the wood cracking and the fire alarms,” Strommen said.

Strommen and another concert attendee Chase Vanacker say the concert paused for about 30 minutes right before the tornado hit and the roof collapsed.

“I keep constantly hearing the screams and the wind hitting my house just freaks me out now,” Strommen said.

Vanacker says when he heard the crack, his first instinct was to get down.

“I pulled myself out and cleared my buddy off and I was like well there’s probably other people here, I don’t think it’s a good idea to run away right now,” Vanacker said. “I tried to help and see if I could try to pull people out.”

Strommen’s stepdad, a retired firefighter was with her. She says his instincts kicked in and made sure she made it out alive.

“Had he not grabbed me when he did, I wouldn’t, I most likely wouldn’t be here,” Strommen said.

Angelica Gomez of Centra Point Restoration says she and her husband were delivering generators to help those without power when they heard the news. They drove directly to the theatre.

“I saw people running over here, calling their parents, crying, screaming and it’s so sad to see because at that moment you just want to hug everyone and let them know, ‘hey you’re OK’ and it was just too overwhelming,” Gomez said. “It kind of felt like a nightmare.”

Vanacker says despite not knowing if he was going to survive in the moment, he still looks forward to his next concert and hopes he can reconnect with the people he saved.

According to the Belvidere Fire Department, over 100 firefighters and paramedics responded to the Apollo Theatre incident.