Love Parade tragedy: 'I'll never forget the sight of all those twisted bodies'

The organisers of Duisburg's Love Parade were yesterday accused of rejecting safety warnings on cost grounds before a stampede that left 19 revellers dead and injured more than 340 others. Prosecutors opened an official inquiry yesterday into the worst tragedy in the celebrated techno-music event's 21-year history. Among those killed were festival-goers from China, Australia, Italy and Holland.

Moments before the stampede, a huge crowd of some 500,000 festival-goers was making its way from the Rhine city's main railway station through a 300-yard-long tunnel towards the festival site, which was already packed on Saturday with more than a million techno ravers.

Fears that the area would be overwhelmed by the approaching crowd prompted police to seal off the exit to the tunnel and use megaphones to order the revellers to turn back. In the ensuing panic, 19 people were crushed to death. "I will never forget the sight," said one woman festival-goer who was trapped in the tunnel. "There were all these twisted-up bodies of those who had been crushed. They were lying at the tunnel exit," she said. "Their faces had all turned blue."

The thousands rushing through the tunnel were trying to witness the festival's main closing parade, it emerged yesterday. "It was idiotic of the police to try to turn back a crowd of ravers who were hell bent on getting into the festival," complained Jörg Sandmann, 21, a student who was at the back of the tunnel. "Nobody wanted to hear that they couldn't get in. They just surged forward," he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has demanded an “intensive” investigation into the stampede. Mrs Merkel said she had been “appalled” by the tragedy, adding that everything must be done to ensure such deaths did not happen again.

Germany's Der Spiegel magazine website revealed that the Duisburg police and fire brigade had recruited a team of security experts to carry out a study in the run-up to the festival. The experts concluded it was vital to avoid the kind of "eye of the needle" situation that was created by making the tunnel the only access route to the Love Parade site. They had argued that it was necessary to allow the crowd several access routes. However, the organisers allegedly rejected the experts' suggestions because that would have meant deploying a far larger police force, with higher costs as a result.



Video: 19 dead at Love Parade

The allegations made by the Duisburg police and fire brigade were backed yesterday by the German police trades union. It disclosed that police security experts had said that they had "huge reservations" about the planning for the Duisburg Love Parade.

Wolfgang Orscheschek, the regional police union deputy head, said the site chosen for the festival was far too small. "The city government was cornered by the organisers to such an extent that, despite the urgent warnings of the security experts, they could only say yes," he said.

Police and Duisburg city officials dodged questions about the causes of the tragedy at a press conference which was described as "chaotic" by several German media outlets present yesterday. Adolf Sauerland, Duisburg's mayor, argued that until the investigation was complete, any apportioning of guilt would be "out of place and out of order".

"That would be an injustice to the victims and their families," he insisted. But despite official stonewalling, the finger of blame was being pointed squarely at the organisers yesterday.

The Love Parade's founder, the techno disc jockey Dr Motte, who had nothing to do with the weekend's Duisburg festival, said in an interview with the Berliner Kurier, that it was scandalous that the crowd had been allowed only one access route to the festival.

Eyewitnesses said chaos broke out at the exit of the tunnel as revellers tried to scale fences, a lighting mast and a concrete stairway at its side whose exit had also been blocked off.

Several of the revellers fell off the stairs into the crowd. Others, pushed by the throng surging towards the exit from behind, simply collapsed on top of them. A stampede ensued, with hundreds of victims trampled in the crush.

"The atmosphere was explosive. Many in the crowd seemed to be intoxicated," said one police officer, who witnessed the scene. "When people started falling off the stairs and pulling others with them, it became just chaotic," he said. "They just couldn't be stopped. It was a living hell."

Police and ambulance crews fought in vain to get to the injured and dead lying at the tunnel exit. Late on Saturday, Duisburg's police chief admitted that the situation was "chaotic".

In order to prevent another panic-induced stampede, the organisers refused to call a halt to the event. The million-strong crowd of ravers was allowed to continue partying well into Saturday evening. Most did not learn of the tragedy until they started leaving.

Yesterday, the floor of Duisburg's "Death Tunnel" was littered with broken spectacles, discarded trainers, torn clothing and bits of medical equipment left by frantic ambulance crews.

As state prosecutors opened an official investigation into the disaster yesterday, Rainer Schaller, the techno festival's organiser, announced that there would be no more Love Parade festivals in Germany under his supervision. "The Love Parade was always a joyful and peaceful party. If it were to continue, it would always be overshadowed by yesterday's events," he said. "Out of respect for the victims, their families and friends, we are going to discontinue the event and that means the end of the Love Parade."

Chris Smith, festival organiser for Womad, held in Wiltshire at the weekend, said he doubted the Love Parade tragedy would be repeated in the UK.

"We take safety incredibly seriously in the UK. I think we have higher standards than anyone else."

Concert tragedies

*Eleven fans of The Who died as almost 10,000 audience members charged to claim seats at a gig in Cincinnati in 1979. The band weren't told of the tragedy until after they had performed.

*Three teenagers died in 1991 when a crowd of almost 5,000 surged forward at an AC/DC concert in Salt Lake City, US.

*Nine people were crushed to death and 43 injured during a Pearl Jam set at the 2000 Roskilde Festival in Denmark.

*In 2001, four teenage girls were killed at an Indonesian shopping centre trying to catch a glimpse of British boy band A1.

*Five people were trampled to death this year after gunfire sparked a stampede at a concert in Mexico.

Enjoli Liston

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum