Worker dies at Long Island Wal-Mart after being trampled in Black Friday stampede
BY JOE GOULD, CLARE TRAPASSO AND RICH SCHAPIRO
DAILY NEWS WRITERS
Updated Friday, November 28th 2008, 10:46 PM
A Wal-Mart worker died early Friday after an "out-of-control" mob of frenzied shoppers smashed through the Long Island store's front doors and trampled him, police said.
The Black Friday stampede plunged the Valley Stream outlet into chaos, knocking several employees to the ground and sending others scurrying atop vending machines to avoid the horde.
When the madness ended, 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour was dead and four shoppers, including a woman eight months pregnant, were injured.
CAUGHT ON CAMERA: WAL-MART CROWD MOMENTS BEFORE DEADLY STAMPEDE
"He was bum-rushed by 200 people," said Wal-Mart worker Jimmy Overby, 43.
"They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me.
"They took me down, too ... I didn't know if I was going to live through it. I literally had to fight people off my back," Overby said.
Damour, a temporary maintenance worker from Jamaica, Queens, was gasping for air as shoppers continued to surge into the store after its 5 a.m. opening, witnesses said.
Even officers who arrived to perform CPR on the trampled worker were stepped on by wild-eyed shoppers streaming inside, a cop at the scene said.
"They pushed him down and walked all over him," Damour's sobbing sister, Danielle, 41, said. "How could these people do that?
"He was such a young man with a good heart, full of life. He didn't deserve that."
Damour's sister said doctors told the family he died of a heart attack.
His cousin, Ernst Damour, called the circumstances "completely unacceptable."
"His body was a stepping bag with so much disregard for human life," Ernst Damour, 37, said. "There has to be some accountability."
Roughly 2,000 people gathered outside the Wal-Mart's doors in the predawn darkness.
Chanting "push the doors in," the crowd pressed against the glass as the clock ticked down to the 5 a.m. opening.
Sensing catastrophe, nervous employees formed a human chain inside the entrance to slow down the mass of shoppers.
It didn't work.
The mob barreled in and overwhelmed workers.
"They were jumping over the barricades and breaking down the door," said Pat Alexander, 53, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. "Everyone was screaming. You just had to keep walking on your toes to keep from falling over."
After the throng toppled Damour, his fellow employees had to fight through the crowd to help him, police said.
Witness Kimberly Cribbs said shoppers acted like "savages."
"When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling, 'I've been on line since Friday morning!'" Cribbs said. "They kept shopping."
When paramedics arrived, Damour's condition was grave.
"They were pumping his chest, trying to bring him back, and there was nothing," said Dennis Smokes, 36, a Wal-Mart worker.
Damour was taken to Franklin Hospital and pronounced dead at 6:03 a.m.
Hank Mullany, president of Wal-Mart's northeast division, said the company took extraordinary safety precautions.
"We expected a large crowd this morning and added additional internal security, additional third-party security, additional store associates and we worked closely with the Nassau County police," he said in a statement.
"We also erected barricades. Despite all of our precautions, this unfortunate event occurred."
The 28-year-old pregnant woman and three other shoppers were taken to area hospitals with minor injuries, police said.
In a news conference after the incident, Nassau County police spokesman Lt. Michael Fleming described the crowd as "out of control" and the scene as "utter chaos." He said Wal-Mart did not have enough security onhand.
Fleming said criminal charges were possible but that it would be difficult to identify individual shoppers in surveillance videos.
Items on sale at the Wal-Mart store included a $798 Samsung 50-inch Plasma HDTV, a Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28 and Men's Wrangler Tough Jeans for $8.
The Long Island store reopened at 1 p.m. and was packed within minutes.
"I look at these people's faces and I keep thinking one of them could have stepped on him," said one employee. "How could you take a man's life to save $20 on a TV?"
With Brendan Brosh and James Queally
People are stupid, they truly are. It's kind of hard to have faith in humanity when the majority are made up of people like the ones stampeding into a Wal-Mart trampelling people to death. The greed!
I remember dropping off product to a Salvation Army store in Richmond, BC. All these Asian people were gathered outside the store, propped up against the glass looking like Garfield cats from the inside of the store. Apparently the store was having some kind of sale. My co-worker and I had to go through the front door to wheel in appliances on our dollies. Once the doors opened, all these Chinese people were trying to force their way in. I grabbed a Chinese man by the back of his jacket and yanked him out of my way, as he tried to get into the store (it wasn't even open yet). My partner and I had to fight our way past the mob. At the time, it was among the funniest shit I've ever experienced.
People are so stupid and greedy.