Wal-Mart worker killed in Black Friday shopping stampede in New York state

An employee at Wal-Mart was killed yesterday when “out-of-control” shoppers broke down the doors at a sale at the discount giant’s store in Long Island, New York.

Other workers were trampled as they tried to rescue the man and at least four other people, including a woman who was eight months pregnant, were taken to hospitals for observation or minor injuries following the incident.

Customers shouted angrily and kept shopping when store officials said they were closing because of the death, police and witnesses said. The store, in Valley Stream on Long Island, closed for several hours before reopening.

Nassau county police said about 2,000 people were gathered outside the store doors at the mall about 20 miles east of Manhattan. The impatient crowd knocked the man, identified by police as Jdimytai Damour,34, of the New York city borough of Queens, to the ground as he opened the doors, leaving a metal portion of the frame crumpled like an accordion.

Shoppers stepped over Damour as he lay on the ground and streamed into the store. When told to leave, they complained that they had been in line since Thursday morning for the Black Friday sale that traditionally follows the Thanksgiving holiday.

“This crowd was out of control,” a police spokesman said. He described the scene as “utter chaos,” and said the store did not have enough security.

Kimberly Cribbs, who witnessed the stampede, said shoppers were acting like “savages.”

Dozens of store employees trying to fight their way out to help Damour were also trampled by the crowd, the police spokesman added. Items on sale at the store included a Samsung 50-inch plasma high-definition TV for $798 (£520), a Samsung 10.2 megapixel digital camera for $69 and DVDs such as The Incredible Hulk for $9.

A 28-year-old pregnant woman was taken to a hospital, where she and her baby were reported to be fine. Police said criminal charges were possible in the case, but said it would be difficult to identify individual shoppers. Authorities were reviewing surveillance video.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, called the incident a “tragic situation” and said the employee came from a temporary agency and was doing maintenance work at the store. The company said it tried to prepare for the crowd by adding staffers and outside security workers, putting up barricades and consulting police.

“Despite all of our precautions, this unfortunate event occurred,” the firm’s senior vice-president, Hank Mullany, said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those impacted.”

Shoppers around the US line up early outside stores on Black Friday, an annual bargain-hunting ritual that marks the day after Thanksgiving, when stores traditionally broke into profitability for the full year.

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