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

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash