PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico (AFP) - A shooting erupted during an electronic music festival at a Mexican beach resort early on Monday (Jan 16), leaving at least five people dead, including one in a stampede as revellers fled in panic.
Fifteen people were injured after at least one gunman opened fire and two others – apparently security guards – shot back before dawn inside the Blue Parrot nightclub during the BPM festival in Playa del Carmen, said Quintana Roo state attorney-general Miguel Angel Pech.
Four of the victims were men, including two from Canada, one from Italy and another from Colombia, Pech said at a news conference. Organisers said three of the victims were part of the security team.
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The state government said in a statement the four men died from gunfire while a woman died in the stampede.
Four people were detained and authorities are investigating if they were connected to the shooting, Pech said.
State public security chief Rodolfo del Angel told Milenio television the shooting may be linked to “a fight between people over a problem that took place inside” the club, but Pech said the investigation was ongoing.
The shooting sowed terror in a part of Mexico that has been largely spared from the drug violence afflicting other parts of the country.
“We suddenly had to jump over the metal security barriers because they were shooting. It was horrible. We were very scared,” Eric Alvarez, a 40-year-old Mexican DJ, told AFP outside the club, which has a blue parrot painted on the facade.
“A lot of people were panicking,” said Alvarez, who lost his prosthetic teeth while fleeing.
Playa del Carmen is 68km south of Cancun, a Caribbean region known as the Mayan Riviera, which is very popular among American and European tourists.
An editor for London-based music magazine Mixmag who was in the backstage area of the Blue Parrot said at least four or five shots were fired at around 3am (4pm Singapore time).
“People started running because there’s an exit in the back. We stopped and hid behind a cement wall, then crawled under a metal table,” Valerie Lee, Mixmag’s US digital editor, was quoted as saying by the magazine.
“Security guards at first didn’t think it was shots and kept claiming it was fireworks, saying everything was OK. Then people kept running and said they saw a gun. We kept hiding until they opened the back gate and we ran outside,” Lee said.
Lee wrote on Twitter that the music was still playing five minutes after the shots were heard. The music, she said, was “super loud, likely those inside didn’t even hear.” She said friends outside the entrance were just 6m from the shooter.
“Bodies on the ground. Didn’t seem like shooters tried to enter the party,” Lee wrote, adding that it took more than 10 minutes for police to arrive.
Images shared on social media showed people cowering or running down the street.
The BPM Festival issued a statement on Facebook saying the attack was perpetrated by a lone shooter.
“The violence began on 12th Street in front of the club and three members of the BPM security team were among those whose lives were lost while trying to protect patrons inside the venue,” the statement said.
The festival said organisers have been working with local authorities throughout the event to ensure public safety.
“We are overcome with grief over this senseless act of violence and we are cooperating fully with local law enforcement and government officials as they continue their investigation,” the statement said.