Probe begins into 19 deaths at Love Parade crush (Second Lead)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

DUISBURG - State prosecutors have begun investigating the circumstances that led to the deaths of at least 19 people and injuries to hundreds at Saturday’s Love Parade music festival, officials said.

The deaths occurred as thousands of people pressed into an access tunnel for the event, which attracted 1.4 million visitors. Panic broke out as the tunnel was overfilled, and the victims were crushed and trampled to death.

“I’m not capable of dressing up this sorrow in words,” Duisburg Mayor Adolf Sauerland said at a turbulent press conference in the city Sunday.

“This accident is so appalling that one can’t put it into words,” he said.

Officials, including the police, crisis management and event organisers, have handed over documents to the prosecutors for a full investigation.

The Love Parade is a massive techno music event that was founded in Berlin in 1989. In recent years it has grown to the extent where Berlin was no longer willing to host it, out of security and cost grounds.

The Love Parade planned in 2009 in neighbouring Bochum was cancelled on security fears.

The parade’s organisers said that the event would not now be held again. “Words are not enough to describe the extent of the shock I feel,” Rainer Schaller said.

Sauerland appealed to the public to let the investigation produce results before levelling accusations.

However acting Duisburg Police Chief Detlef von Schmeling said that two seperate criminal charges were already being considered by the prosecutors, without giving further details.

Criticism of the organisation of the event has exploded in the wake of the deaths, focusing on the fact that at the time of the accident, only one entrance and exit point was available for the festival grounds, which cover a former goods railway yard.

Both city officials and police defended the organisation and security planning of the event.

Police said that 16 of the 19 dead had been identified so far, and that four of them were non-German citizens. Police Chief von Schmeling said that a Dutch national, an Australian, an Italian and a Chinese national were among the dead.

According to latest estimates 342 people were injured, some of them seriously.

A British DJ told the BBC Sunday of how organisers demanded that performers keep going even as the scale of the accident became clear, in order that a second panic wouldn’t break out.

“The organizers, they were quite adamant,” DJ Mark Knight told the BBC. “We were told just before we were about to play ‘the show has to go on. We cannot stop for fear of the repercussions and more panic’.”

The party continued for at least five hours after the tragedy occurred.

Police confirmed at the press conference that the deaths in the crush in fact occurred on the access ramps which connected the tunnel to the event grounds, and not within the tunnel itself as previously thought.

The panic occurred shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday (5 p.m. GMT) after people had tried to climb up fences and walls to escape the jammed tunnel area, with victims having passed out from lack of oxygen being carried overhead.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her sorrow and shock at the fatal accident.

“In these difficult hours my thoughts are with the relatives of the victims. My sympathies and my sorrows go out to them,” the chancellor said late Saturday.

“The young people came to celebrate, instead there were deaths and injuries. I am appalled and distressed at the suffering and pain,” she said.

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