updated 03/16/2009 AT 2:00 PM ET
•originally published 03/16/2009 AT 3:20 PM ET
Jessica Paravati was one of thousands of aspiring contestants waiting in line for an open audition for Tyra Banks’s show America’s Next Top Model when a panicked stampede broke out, causing her to “fear for her life.”
“It the scariest moment of my life,” Paravati, 21, told PEOPLE of the scene which left six people injured and three arrested. “I thought I could die and it was absolutely horrible.”
According to Paravati, a Palisades Park, N.J., resident, a wave of panic and disorder erupted into pandemonium outside New York’s Park Central Hotel once she and others saw smoke and heard people screaming “bomb” and “guns.”
“I was at the front of the line but I saw smoke near the end of the line,” she said. “Once people saw the smoke everyone started to run and started to push each other towards the front of the line towards me. I could not move and my instinct was to run like everyone else.”
"We Were Trapped"
However, Paravati along with her best friend, were trapped and unable to move, she says, recalling the horrific screaming and sheer terror.
“As the stampede started girls were screaming for their life and people started crying as they were falling all over the ground and running on top of each other trying to jump over the barricades. I was screaming too. I was so scared. I’ve never seen anything like it. We were trapped.”
Amazingly Paravati was not injured due to the fact she had her best friend to lean on. “I grabbed onto her and she grabbed onto me to hold each other up not to fall down and get run over,” she said. “Luckily we managed and didn’t fall over anything.”
With the auditions immediately canceled, Paravati added, “I didn’t get to audition but I am thankful that I’m alive and not hurt.”