This story is developing. Updated Sunday, Apr. 2.
One person is dead after a roof collapse during a concert in Belvidere in northern Illinois, about an hour west of Chicago. The victim has been identified as Fred Livingston, Jr.
A crowdfunding effort in his name has already surpassed its original goal to aid the family and thanks family, friends, the Belvidere community and the Metal community for love and support during the loss of the father of three.
Top state officials survey damage
Gov. JB Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation for Boone, Crawford, DuPage, Marion and Sangamon Counties to unlock state resources to assist with recovery efforts.
The governor’s first stop Sunday morning was the Apollo Theatre in downtown Belvidere. It was the site of a heavy metal concert with some 250 people in attendance. A tornado caused the roof to collapse, killing Livingston and injuring dozens more. A handful of patients at local hospitals remain in critical condition with injuries related to blunt force trauma.
Belvidere Mayor Clint Morris mourned the victims.
“Our community is heartbroken,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers continue for Fred Livingston, his family, his loved ones and all those injured in this tragedy.”
Governor Pritzker says emergency responders, concertgoers, and community members helped free people trapped under the rubble.
“I think it is just incredibly impressive, frankly,” he said. “The mayor said it best — this is a strong community and it showed up for each other on Friday night.”
Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau joined Pritzker in Belvidere during his visit.
“I really want to tell you what a great job that your fire and police have done for you in being able to respond to this incident, ” she said. “If it weren’t for their quick actions, there would have been many more lost lives.”
In a media update on Friday night, Belvidere Police Chief Shane Woody said extra emergency personnel were on hand due to the weather and conducted a search and rescue. He said people were injured in three parts of the theater: near the stage, in the basement, and under the collapsed outdoor marquee.
Tate-Nadeau also says the state has been in contact with FEMA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to discuss additional resources to help with recovery efforts after the storms.
She says crews are located across the state to assess the damage.
Theatre has long history in the downtown
The Apollo Theatre has been around since the early 1920’s and is key element in the character of downtown Belvidere. Fire Department Chief Shawn Schadle says building updates overtime contribute to it still standing and helped prevent it from being a larger scale tragedy.
“If this didn’t have a modern structure, it would have probably been a total collapse with a direct hit of a tornado,” he said. “But as you can see, the building withstood a direct impact by a tornado. Buildings just aren’t made to do that.”
Schadle says some have asked whether the crowds ought to have been evacuated and he says taking cover in a sturdy building was the safest route.
“I think people made good decisions, and they were in a sturdy building, but it got hit by a tornado.”
Maria Martinez is one of the owners of the theatre that was purchased in 2017. She was not available for comment but was seen distraught as she gathered around other family members outside the building and met briefly with Governor Pritzker.
It served as a concert and event venue hosting Quinceanera’s, weddings and Banda bands to country and rock performances.
Sen. Steve Stadelman, whose district includes Belvidere, says the days ahead may be difficult for folks in the city as they recover from the storm, but he’s optimistic that in the long run the Apollo Theatre will still be around.
“It’s ingrained in the fabric of this community. Indication signs that came back [found] that it was still structurally sound. I think that process is still going.”
Tough times for Belvidere
The population of Belvidere is around 25,000 people.
Mayor Clint Morris says the city is no different from any other community facing various challenges whether economic or climate related.
In addition to Friday’s tragedy, a vehicle assembly plant idled in February, laying off more than 1,300 workers.
“It’s just part of life, you know, I think we’ll get by this, he said. We’re going to get by this. We’re going to get by the Stellantis [closure], and I’m going to get some good help doing it.” State
Downstate storms proved deadly
Meanwhile, there were fatalities in other parts of Illinois, including a residential structure collapse in the southeastern Illinois city of Robinson that killed three people:
“The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is working closely with our local and county public safety partners and Emergency Managers to assess the widespread damages across the state including here at the Apollo Theatre in Belvidere in Boone County, and at Robinson in Crawford County. We continue to assess other damages in many counties across Illinois.”
According to Illinois Public Media, Friday night’s tornado cut a path through Crawford County, which borders Indiana. The storm leveled at least 25 homes and destroyed a building at Lincoln Trail College.
The county airport took a direct hit and airplanes were thrown across nearby cropland.
“To live it, and actually be right beside it and be trying to work in the middle of it,” said Crawford County Board Chairman Bill Burke. “I’ve never, ever in my life seen anything like it. It look like a warzone.”
The tornado path in northern Illinois
The National Weather Service in Chicago reports the Davis Junction to Belvidere tornado touched down in the northeast portion of Ogle county southwest of Davis Junction at 7:24 p.m. on Friday. The tornado tracked northeast through the village of Davis Junction where it caused generally EF-0 damage with isolated EF-1 damage to a single family home on the north side of town. The tornado continued northeast into southeastern Winnebago County causing generally EF-0 damage to multiple farms as the tornado reached its widest extent of about half a mile. The tornado then continued into Boone County causing damage to farms.
As the tornado neared Belvidere, the width decreased to about a quarter of a mile but briefly intensified near the central business district. Peak winds estimated at about 100 mph occurred at the Apollo Theatre where a portion of the roof collapsed, causing 1 fatality and 40 injuries. The tornado continued northeast into rural areas of Boone County causing EF-0 damage until lifting near Orth Road and Capron Road at about 7:49 p.m. on Friday.
A National Weather Service damage survey also confirmed that an EF-1 tornado touched down in Machesney Park. Damage consisted of snapped and uprooted trees, downed tree branches, and uplift of roofs on at least two homes.
Guy Stephens, Susan Stephens, Maria Gardner Lara and Jenna Dooley contributed to this report.