Love Parade Tragedy

Loveparade Berlin 2006, 15th July

Duisburg 2010, in the Tunnel of Death

German officials confirmed on Sunday that 19 people died and 342 were injured during the mass panic that turned Saturday’s Love Parade in Duisburg into a tragedy. Prosecutors have launched an investigation, with initial questions focusing on the organizers’ crowd control strategy.

In 1989, the Love Parade started in Berlin as a peace demonstration. On Saturday, the festival, held in Germany’s industrial Ruhr region since 2007, ended in disaster in Duisburg when a mass panic resulted in the deaths of 19 partygoers. A further 340 were injured in the stampede.

The deaths took place as partygoers were pushing through a highway underpass leading to the festival grounds, the only entrance to the party for the 1.4 million people in attendance. According to some accounts, organizers at one point closed the entrance to the party venue, a former freight train station, for an hour but did not prevent more people from streaming into the tunnel. The resulting crush of people fueled both tempers and the resulting panic.

According to a police spokesman on Sunday, most of the deaths occurred when revellers broke through a barricade and began climbing up a steep staircase near the tunnel entrance in an effort to gain access to the party grounds. Many of them fell off, which triggered a panic in the masses down below.

An eyewitness told the German news channel n-tv that the tunnel had acted like a trap. “There were people lying on the ground everywhere,” he said. “It was how I imagine war would look.” He said that the advancing crowd had run over people lying on the ground and described the situation as “real mass panic.”

The organizer of this year’s party was Rainer Schaller, also the head of the McFit fitness gym chain, which was the event’s primary sponsor. On Saturday, he promised that “we will do everything in our power to ensure a complete and speedy investigation of this tragedy.”

On Sunday, he said that there will be no more Love Parades in the future.

The original Love Parade grew out of a 1989 peace demonstration and eventually became one of Berlin’s calling cards, attracting 1.5 million people in 1999. But the city eventually became disenchanted with the event — a disagreement about who was responsible for paying the security and police bill ultimately spelled the end of the annual event in the German capital.

Revellers enjoy electronic music during the Love Parade "The art of Love" in the western German city of Duisburg July 24, 2010. The biggest party in the world gets started when the loudspeakers on the 16 floats flooded the former freight depot with the beats and bass of the new anthem "The Art of Love". REUTERS/Kirsten Neumann

2 Responses to “Love Parade Tragedy”

  1. 01/31/2011

    Investigating the Love Parade Tragedy

    Did One Police Officer’s Order Lead to Disaster?

    Did a single police order result in the deaths of 21 people at last summer’s Love Parade? According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, several security personnel have accused an officer of demanding that a crowd control facility be opened. The resulting flood of visitors may have directly contributed to the tragedy.

    The 21 deaths and hundreds of injuries were bad enough. But six months after the July 24 Love Parade in the western German city of Duisburg ended in disaster, efforts by city employees, event organizers and police to sidestep responsibility for the deadly crush that developed at the entry to the site have continued.

    According to information obtained from the ongoing investigation by SPIEGEL, several security personnel contracted by Love Parade organizer Lopavent have testified that a police officer issued an order that may have directly contributed to the tragedy. They say the officer ordered the opening of an access control facility outside the west entrance to the tunnel leading to the site — despite event organizers having requested that the facility remain closed.

    “The officer did not acquiesce to our objections that (should the facility be opened), a backup inside the entrance tunnel could result,” one of the security workers said. “We had to obey his orders.”

    The accusation is the latest in a series of allegations made by those involved in the event. Lopavent has insisted that the police made crucial errors as crowds swelled throughout the afternoon; both the city and the police have accused the event organizers of insufficient crowd control personnel; and the city has been blasted for signing off on an event concept which included a single tunnel and ramp that was to serve as both the entrance and exit to a party expected to attract a half-million visitors.

    In mid-January, Duisburg public prosecutors announced that it had opened investigations into 16 people in connection with the event. Last week, investigators searched 10 homes and offices in search of “electronically saved data that we do not yet have,” according to head public prosecutor Rolf Haferkamp.

    Seeking to Alleviate Congestion

    In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, speculation had centered on access routes to the site, a disused freight rail station. One large ramp was to serve as both the entrance and exit to the site with a smaller ramp not far away planned as an exit ramp. Both ramps, however, led to a single tunnel, through which partygoers could approach the entrance from the east or the west. Access control facilities had been set up outside each tunnel in an effort to control the number of visitors entering the tunnel.

    The police officer who ordered the opening of the facility at the western tunnel entrance had apparently sought to alleviate significant knots of people assembled there. By the time he allegedly ordered the facility to be opened, however, entrance to the parade grounds had essentially been blocked — initially by a knot of people at the top of the entrance ramp and then by police officers vainly attempting to hold back the surging crowd. Once the western access control facility was opened, thousands of partygoers surged into the tunnel, ultimately resulting in the deadly crush.

    Among those currently under investigation are the head of Duisburg’s legal department, the head of its urban development department, the deputy director of the local office of public order and a crowd manager hired by Lopavent to coordinate access to the site on the day of the event. A police official is also under investigation.

    Duisburg Mayor Adolf Sauerland, who was heavily criticized in the wake of the incident, is not under investigation, nor is Lopavent head Rainer Schaller, who revitalized the Love Parade event after it was moved from Berlin to western Germany’s Ruhr Valley region.

    cgh/SPIEGEL

  2. More than a million of young people from different nations came to Duisburg for to enjoy this party but it ended up in a tragedy …

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