A manager at the Northampton nightclub where two students died has described people leaping over the cloakroom counter in panic. The inquest into the deaths of Nabila Nanfuka and Dani Jackson at Lava & Ignite heard that the landing outside the dancefloor was packed with clubbers trying to reclaim their belongings in the early hours of October 19, 2011.
Witnesses said this group, along with a separate swell of people pushing to leave the club, caused a mass crush with people falling on top of one another on the stairs.
A statement by Shell Furniss, a crew leader, that was read to the jury said she had never seen the cloakroom landing so busy and that she saw people start to get distressed.
She said: “I could usually see the stairs from the cloakroom but I couldn’t on that night because of all the people.
“I can’t remember what time the fire alarm was set off, but customers were jumping the counter and I was trying to stop them. I thought they were just trying to get their belongings.
“But there was a young lady saying, ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’. She was being squashed up against the counter and I had to help her over it.
“After that people started climbing and leaping over the counter and coming through the door [to the cloakroom] to escape.”
Earlier in the day, the jury were told that the capacity of the club was 1,600 people, even though the coroner had said on Monday that there may have been close to 1,700 people inside that night.
Spencer Fitzgerald, manager of Lava & Ignite, which has now closed, also appeared in the witness box.
His statement, taken from a police interview the day after the tragedy, said he had tried to persuade people at the back of the crowd to stop pushing as he saw the crush develop, but had been pinned against the wall of the stairwell by the crowd.
The inquest continues.