Gunfire broke out in a crowded beachfront nightclub throbbing with electronic music before dawn Monday, causing five deaths and setting off a bloody stampede by screaming concertgoers at an international festival in this Caribbean resort.
At least one person died in the crush to escape and some of the 15 people wounded or injured were hurt in the rush out, authorities said.
Quintana Roo state Attorney General Miguel Angel Pech ruled out any terror attack, and the state's governor said it involved a personal dispute. Pech said the shooting erupted when security personnel tried to stop a man from entering the Blue Parrot club with a gun.
Three of those killed were part of the security detail at the 10-day BPM electronic music festival, Pech said. The gunman apparently fled.
"I was thinking it was the same thing that happened in Paris, some guy just walking in and shooting people at a restaurant, bang bang bang, a terrorist attack," said New Zealand tourist Tyler Klee, who was outside the club when shots rang out.
"Everyone ran, everyone was terrified, looking for their friends ... We were running away and then you hear more shots fired, like you don't know if you're going to be shot in the back or not."
His friend Ben Forbes, from Australia, said: "It happened pretty quickly as well ... You still didn't know where they were, how many there were."
State officials initially said the dead included an Italian, a Colombian and two Canadians, while not giving a country for the fifth victim. The state prosecutor's office later said that only one Canadian was killed, and the U.S. Embassy confirmed that one of those killed was a U.S. citizen.
Canada's Global Affairs Department identified its dead citizen as Kirk J. Wilson of Toronto. It said at least two Canadians were among the injured. Italy's Foreign Ministry confirmed one of its citizens died.
Pech, the state attorney general, said the 15 people with injuries included a Mexican woman who was seriously injured. He said eight of the injured, including two U.S. citizens, were treated at hospitals for minor injuries and released.
The shooting occurred near the largest exit, setting off chaos as concert goers had to scramble over a metal fence to escape to the beach.
Jeffrey Castelein, 33, a fork lift operator from Belgium, said he heard 15 to 20 shots before he and his friends leapt the fence. "At first we didn't realize, and then everybody fell down and you had to hide a little bit. And then we went out the back by the sea."
His group got separated and had to wait for everyone to meet back at the apartment. "It was the longest 20 minutes of my life," Castelein said.
Pech said the shooter apparently tried to enter the nightclub about 2:30 a.m., but was denied access because he had a gun. He then began to exchange fire with another person, and festival security personnel who tried to stop the shooting came under fire, Pech said. He said 20 bullet casings from three different pistols were found at the scene, but it was unclear if the security detail was armed or fired any of the weapons.
Pech said the gunman himself apparently escaped, though three people had been detained nearby. It was not known if they had been involved in the shooting.
"We know of another shooting incident that occurred near the nightclub, but we are investigating whether that is related" to the deadly shooting, Pech said.
Quintana Roo Gov. Carlos Joaquin attributed the shooting to "the intolerance and conflict of interests between two people," and also referred to it as "a personal conflict." But he did not specify what the conflict was. He said the two exchanged gunfire.
Playa del Carmen has largely been spared the violence that has hit other parts of Mexico.
The state tourism department said the shooting was an "isolated act of violence" and stressed that "the situation in Playa del Carmen is under control and Mexican and foreign tourists can feel protected and safe."
Without providing nationalities, the state government gave the names of three of those killed. They included Kirk Wilson, who the state identified as the BPM security supervisor at the Blue Parrot, and Daniel Pessina and Rafael Antonio Penaloza Vega.
Colorado woman among 5 dead in Mexico nightclub shooting
A Colorado woman was among five dead stemming from a shooting early Monday at a nightclub in a popular Mexican resort.
Alejandra Villanueva was the lone American killed in the attack, her family told Fox 31 Denver. Two other Americans were injured. Fifteen were injured in all.
“She was a hard worker. She was really smart. She liked art,” her brother Roberto Martinez told the station.
Quintana Roo Prosecutor Miguel Angel Pech Cen said the four other victims in the assault were members of the security team of the BPM Festival, an annual 10-day and night electronic music festival. They were two Canadians, one Italian and one Colombian, he said.
Villanueva was killed either by an accidental fall or as a result of the stampede during the evacuation of the place.
The shooting unfolded at around 2:30 a.m. as club-goers waited in line to get into the BPM Festival’s closing party at the Blue Parrot.
The government of the Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo said four people had been detained, but it was unclear if they included the shooter. Pech said terrorism had been ruled out.
The BPM Festival is popular with foreign tourists, especially from the United States and the United Kingdom.
The organizers posted a statement on Facebook saying the attack involved "a lone shooter."
Rodolfo Del Angel, director of police in the state of Quintana Roo, told the Milenio TV station that the shooting was the result of "a disagreement between people inside" the nightclub and that security guards had come under fire when they tried to contain the dispute.
Marcos Vazquez, 29-year-old from El Paso, Texas, told NBC News that he was with his girlfriend at the nearby La Vaquita nightclub when he saw people running by.
He said they ran into the bathroom and locked themselves inside with eight other people.
DJ Jackmaster, one of the performers at the rave, tweeted that someone stormed the club and opened fire.
A video tweeted out shows panicked club-goers running into the streets to escape the reported gunfire.
Stephen Rosado, a New York native, told the New York Daily News that he heard “at least five or six shots” and that everyone in line to get into the club was running away. He said he saw emergency personnel put two people into ambulances.
BPM officials tweeted that police investigations were under way and that everyone needed to shelter in place.