Bargain Laptops Cause Stampede

Henrico County Police Sgt. A. J. Scott tries to control the crowd rushing to get an iBook through an open door at the Richmond International Raceway complex in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2005. The Henrico County public school system was selling students' used laptop computers for $50 each. The school was offering about 1,000 iBooks, and the Henrico County Fire Dept. estimates 5,500 people showed up for the sale. Several people suffered minor injuries in the stampede. AP

A rush to purchase $50 used laptops turned into a violent stampede Tuesday, with people getting thrown to the pavement, beaten with a folding chair and nearly driven over. One woman went so far as to wet herself rather than surrender her place in line.

"This is total, total chaos," said Latoya Jones, 19, who lost one of her flip-flops in the ordeal and later limped around on the sizzling blacktop with one foot bare.

An estimated 5,500 people turned out at the Richmond International Raceway in hopes of getting their hands on one of the 4-year-old Apple iBooks. The Henrico County school system was selling 1,000 of the computers to county residents. New iBooks cost between $999 and $1,299.

Officials opened the gates at 7 a.m., but some already had been waiting since 1:30 a.m. When the gates opened, it became a terrifying mob scene.

People threw themselves forward, screaming and pushing each other. A little girl's stroller was crushed in the stampede. Witnesses said an elderly man was thrown to the pavement, and someone in a car tried to drive his way through the crowd.

Seventeen people suffered minor injuries, with four requiring hospital treatment, Henrico County Battalion Chief Steve Wood said. There were no arrests and the iBooks sold out by 1 p.m.
  • Gina Pace

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