MESCHEDE, Calle, Germany –
at the Love Parade festival Saturday in Duisburg, Germany, Maya Argaman had no
idea that not far from her, others in the audience were dying when the crowd
outbreak of mass hysteria, the crowd trampled each other, crushing 19 to death
and injuring more than 300, leaving Germans throughout the country in a state of
shock and dismay.
Love Parade festival crowd
Love Parade festival crowd
festival site was higher up and we didn’t have a view of the tunnel,” where most
of the people died, said Argaman, 20, of Essen.
the crowd at the festival was also clueless.
was no announcement, no official information. I got a text from my mother, but
we weren’t aware of the magnitude of what had happened, so we kept on partying,”
said Argaman. “Everyone just kept on partying.”
should have been a day of music, dancing and fun – a celebration of love and
peace – turned into a tragedy and sparked an investigation into how such a
catastrophe could happen.
are still trying to sort out the circumstances that led to the mass stampede.
According to police, the festival site on an old freight yard was overcrowded,
with about 1.4 million people crammed into a space suitable for only about
prevent even more partygoers from entering the site, the police ordered those
who were still arriving to turn around and go back. The departing crowds then
clashed with more people still coming into the tunnel, which was the only way in
and out of the festival.
theorize that some people tried to jump barriers and climb a flight of stairs
leading over the tunnel trying to get into the Love Parade despite the warnings
– or simply to escape the increasingly pressing crowds.
of these people fell into the already-packed area around the entrance to the
tunnel, mass panic ensued. People inside the tunnel started falling to the
ground and others trampled over them.
were men and women aged 18 to 38 and included visitors from the Netherlands,
Australia, Italy, China and Spain.
Wild, 21, of Stuttgart, was one of the fortunate ones, surviving a close call
while trying to enter the festival. She and her friends were among those who
hadn’t yet reached the tunnel when panic broke out in the frightened crowd.
in the middle of a mass of people,” Wild said, “and somehow some people started
panicking and, luckily, I got out to the side with a friend of mine. But some
other friends were pressed further to the front and saw how others were
smothered. It’s terrible – I still can’t believe it. We were really lucky that
nothing happened to us!”
she didn’t realize the magnitude of what was happening.
event like that, shoving and pushing just seems so normal,” said Wild.
Love Parade festival crowd near the tunnel where a deadly
crush took place some 45 minutes later.
aftermath, questions are arising as to who is responsible for the tragedy.
blame the organizers. In the months leading up to the festival, there were
discussions about the festival site being too small.
police and fire officials were quoted in German media prior to the event,
criticizing the plan to use the tunnel as both entrance and exit to the
visited the Love Parade for the first time on Saturday, entering the festival
site about 45 minutes before the mass hysteria.
went through the tunnel, there was already an unbelievable crowd, way too many
people for its capacity,” she said. “It took us about two and a half hours to
get onto the site.”
the crowd, the walk would have taken her about 15 minutes. Once on the site
itself, she and the other partygoers didn’t notice the tragedy unfolding nearby.
The Love Parade just kept on going as if nothing had happened. Only a few of
the DJs knew what was going on.
city officials decided at a crisis meeting to let the festival continue in order
to prevent further mass hysteria and another stampede, according to city
spokesman Frank Kpatschek. Officially, the Love Parade was supped to go until 1
a.m., but it was stopped shortly after 11 p.m.
were three critical problems,” Argaman said. “First, the site wasn’t big enough
for the mass of people. Second, the tunnel was supposed to serve as an entrance
and exit at the same time. And third, there were no emergency exits. There were
fences everywhere. Even if you wanted to get out, you just simply couldn’t.
There was no way.”
trying to escape the masses later attempted to climb those fences, but the weak
metal bent back under the weight, sending the people crashing into those still
problems ensued when the partygoers started leaving the site, often completely
unaware what was going on. Officials created an emergency hotline, but the
amount of calls coming in jammed the lines, making it difficult to get through.
The same happened with the normal cell-phone network.
parents driving to the city to look for their children severely strained
Duisburg’s traffic system and trains were canceled, leaving many stranded at the
train station without any information.
bothered me especially was that the police wouldn’t give us any information
about what was happening,” Argaman said. “The police really failed.”
criticized the event staffers.
reacted way too late. They didn’t let the people out on the sides,” said Wild.
“They removed the fences way too late. That was really bad conduct on their
behalf with horrific consequences.”
Duisburg Mayor Adolf Sauerland cautioned against making premature accusations.
after the tragedy, he rebuffed criticism of the approved safety plans for the
didn’t happen because the safety concept failed, but most likely due to
individual weaknesses,” said Sauerland.
Meanwhile, the office of the district attorney has started an investigation,
confiscating the organizers’ documents.
questions, such as why the festival site wasn’t open as in previous years or why
the tunnel was both entrance and exit, were not answered at any of the press
conferences following the catastrophe. Police, city officials and organizers
alike refuse to take the blame for what has happened.
seems certain: This year’s Love Parade was the last.
press conference the day after the event, organizer Rainer Schaller put an end
to any more Love Parades in the future.
are no words to express the extent of my sadness,” Schaller said. “We will do
everything possible to help completely clarify the circumstances that led to
this tragedy. The Love Parade has always been a peaceful event and a happy
party, but now it will forever be clouded by the tragedy of Duisburg and will be
Parade started in 1989 as a
political demonstration for peace and international understanding through
love and music. Held in Berlin until 2006, the Love Parade moved to the Ruhr
area due to financial problems and tensions with city officials in the capital.
Essen hosted the music event in 2007 and Dortmund in 2008.
of the 2010 Love Parade, the festival’s 19th year, was “The Art of
scenes in Duisburg were grotesque, with people were dying only a few hundred
yards away from other unaware partygoers.
Parade website went black Saturday night, showing only a message in white
letters that read, “Our wish to arrange a happy togetherness was overshadowed by
the tragic accidents on 24th July 2010… Our sincere condolences to all the
relatives and our thoughts are with all of those who are currently being taken