Wal-Mart Worker Dies in Stampede at New York Store
By Chris Dolmetsch
Nov. 28 (Bloomberg) -- A worker at a Wal-Mart in New York City’s Long Island suburbs was killed when a throng of shoppers broke down the doors to the store early this morning and knocked him to the ground.
The event involved a temporary employee and was “a tragic situation,” Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s biggest retailer, said in a statement. “The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority.”
It wasn’t immediately clear if any shoppers or workers have been killed during similar incidents during sales on the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally known as Black Friday.
“We do not know of an incident such as what happened today,” Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based National Retail Federation, said in an e-mail. “It is a horribly tragic situation. Retailers are reminded of the importance of employee safety.”
At least four shoppers were hurt in the melee at the store in the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, about 13 miles (20 kilometers) east of New York City, Nassau County Police said in a statement. A 28-year-old pregnant woman was taken to a hospital for observation, and three people suffered minor injuries, police said.
The 34-year-old worker, who wasn’t identified by police, was knocked down by the crowd shortly after 5 a.m. local time and taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:03 a.m., the police said. The county medical examiner will determine the cause of death.
The man was working for a temporary agency on the company’s behalf, Wal-Mart said in the statement.
About 2,000 people had gathered outside the store as it prepared to open, Newsday reported, citing police Detective Lieutenant Michael Fleming, who spoke at a briefing. Shoppers in the back of the line pushed those in the front into the doors, which then came off their hinges, the newspaper said.
Hundreds of people then surged into the store, knocking over the worker and trampling him, Newsday said, citing Fleming. Authorities are reviewing surveillance video and are considering criminal charges although it may be difficult to identify individual shoppers, the newspaper said.
Some people continued to shop despite the efforts of upset store workers, who attempted to get them to leave, Newsday said, citing Kimberly Cribbs, a shopper from Far Rockaway.
The store was later closed by police, said Carolyn Kasdorf, a department spokeswoman.
U.S. retailers including Wal-Mart opened their doors as early as midnight and discounted merchandise as much as 70 percent on the day after Thanksgiving to counter what may be the weakest holiday shopping season in six years.
Retailers promoted “doorbuster” deals to attract customers on Black Friday, so named because the day after Thanksgiving was said to be when retailers started to make their annual profit, having paid off their costs from sales earlier in the year.