Two people have died following an incident at a hotel in the Northern Irish town of Cookstown where a St Patrick’s Day event was taking place, police said. Four people were injured.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said a multi-agency incident was under way at the Greenvale Hotel, where it is understood that a disco was taking place.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said: “I can confirm there are two fatalities at this stage and a small number of other casualties. At this stage the cause of the incident is unknown, however police have commenced a full investigation into the circumstances.”
He added: “While the exact cause of the incident is still unknown, there are reports of a crush at the scene.”
It is feared some of the victims may be young as police urged parents to pick up their children from the hotel.
Councillor Trevor Wilson said he had been phoned from the scene by an eyewitness.
“There seems to have been a stampede, and a number of people have been badly injured,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
Emma Heatherington, whose two sons, aged 17 and 18, had been at the event, said she “felt sick” when she saw the police appeal.
“My two boys were there so I rang them, shaking and thankfully got them both,” she said. “They were on their way home at that stage. They say there was a huge crowd waiting to get into the venue and then a lot of commotion up near the front of the queue, then they said the emergency services arrived and they were all asked to leave.
“They came home very, very shaken with rumours that some people had died.”
The 42-year-old, of Donaghmore, County Tyrone, added: “While it’s not clear exactly what happened, it’s the most tragic ending imaginable to what was supposed to be a celebration of St Patrick’s Day.”
A member of staff at the nearby Glenavon Hotel said they had heard the sirens as emergency services rushed to the scene, and said police had come to borrow their defibrillator.
“There were ambulances passing our entrance,” he said. “It’s scary, and you just hoped everyone was OK. It’s very sad to hear what happened.”
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said it had received several calls following reports of a number of people having sustained serious injuries.
It said “two rapid response paramedics, two doctors and five emergency crews” had been dispatched to the scene.
“Three patients have been taken, by ambulance, to Antrim Area Hospital for treatment for various injuries and another to Craigavon Area Hospital,” it added.
Politicians paid tribute to the victims on social media.
Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster tweeted that her “thoughts and prayers” were “with everyone impacted”.
Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: “We are devastated to hear of the confirmed PSNI report of at least two deaths this evening at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown. This is shocking and tragic news and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased.”
Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill also tweeted: “Heartbreaking news coming from Cookstown tonight. A parent’s worst nightmare. My thoughts and prayers are with the families.”