A crowd that numbered into the thousands surged onto the streets of Chapel Hill, celebrating North Carolina’s victory over Gonzaga in the NCAA championship game, with seven people reportedly injured in the reveling.
The party began with about seven seconds left when Tar Heel fans converged from all corners of town onto the intersection of Franklin and Columbia streets. Eventually, the number of happy fans reached 55,000, police told Raleigh’s ABC affiliate, adding that four of the seven injuries were from bonfires.
The men’s basketball title may have been the sixth in school history, but fans partied as if it were the first, perhaps in part jubilant after losing the title game a year ago.
Naturally, there had to be fire, even though bonfires are illegal. “In particular, what I worry about is everybody is so close together that if someone catches on fire, for example, it may be difficult to get to them and what ends up being a celebration becomes a tragedy,” said Bruce Cairns, director of the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center had warned Monday.
There’s no word yet on the severity of the injuries.
The fires were put out and cleanup was quickly finished, with streets reopening to traffic at around 2 a.m.