Thousands flee after gunshot-like noises at Central Park festival

CENTRAL PARK, Manhattan (WABC) -- Thousands of people ran for it Saturday when they heard what they thought were gunshots at the Global Citizen Festival on the Great Lawn in Central Park.

It turns out the frightening sound wasn't gunshots after all - but the fear was very real.

"I heard 'boom boom boom' like that sound like a gunshot and that's when everyone whooshed. Everyone started huddling, and going down. And everyone started freaking out. And then I heard it again like 'boom boom' and that's when everyone started freaking out," said Annabelle Smart.

Police say the cause of the mortifying fear was "the sound of an attendee(s) stepping on and popping a drink bottle(s)."

Authorities quickly took the stage, assuring the crowd they were safe, but people feared the worst.

"Just a mob of people started running. It felt like a war zone. It was insane, and then people were just running and there were security guards telling us to duck down," said Teddy Dumont.
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CeFaan Kim has the details from the Upper West Side.

No gunshots were fired. Most of the injuries were minor.

The show continued after a brief interruption - but many people left, in no mood to return.

About 60,000 people had filled the park's Great Lawn for the eight-hour Global Citizen Festival.

They listened to big-name personalities from Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Republican Sen. Jeff Flake to Janet Jackson and John Legend who all urged spectators to get involved in the nation's troubled politics.

The organization later released the statement below apologizing to attendees:

Dear Global Citizens,

I want to personally write to you to explain the incident that occurred at yesterday's Global Citizen Festival and sincerely apologize to all of those who were affected by last night's incident.

Since last evening, we have been working with NYPD, and they have advised us of the following:

In the 7 o'clock hour yesterday evening, some attendees heard a loud noise causing significant alarm to those attendees who believed it sounded like gunshots. Upon hearing the noise, some attendees moved to swiftly exit the Park, and some were injured in the process. NYPD quickly determined that the noise was not gunshots, made an announcement on stage, and worked alongside FDNY, event security, and Global Citizen to ensure public safety.

While NYPD originally advised that a fallen security barrier caused the noise, NYPD informed us today that it was the sound of an attendee(s) stepping on and popping a drink bottle(s). Once NYPD and FDNY determined that the situation was safe, and security infrastructure was established for re-entry, attendees were permitted to re-enter the event through select entrances, and the Festival resumed.

Unfortunately, while every effort was made to quickly re-open the gates, we regret some attendees were unable to re-enter the Park, and for that we apologize.

We would like to thank the NYPD, FDNY and security officials for acting quickly to respond to the incident, restore calm, and ensure attendees were safe.

A few dozen people reported injuries and sought treatment for injuries sustained as they were moving away from the area. To those who were injured or frightened by this experience, we sincerely apologize. We recognize how traumatic this was for many of you.

The main priority of the Global Citizen organization is to maintain a safe and secure environment for individuals to come together in our collective effort to end extreme poverty.

To those who are searching for lost property, please go to NYPD's Central Park Precinct on the 86th Street Transverse Road between 5th Ave & Central Park West.

If you have any concerns or questions about last night's event, please contact We welcome and appreciate your feedback.

We regret that this incident marred an otherwise impactful event. In the run-up to the Festival, Global Citizens took 2.1 million actions, which resulted in 37 commitments and announcements totaling $7.75 billion, which are set to affect the lives of 254 million people by 2030.

We are immensely grateful to all Global Citizens for continuing to raise your voices on behalf of the world's poor, and hope that you will continue to be a part of our movement and join us at future events and Festivals.

Yours sincerely,

Hugh and the Global Citizen team

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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