DUISBURG, Germany (AP) _ A stampede inside a tunnel crowded with techno music fans crushed 15 people to death and injured dozens at the Love Parade festival in western Germany on Saturday.
Other revelers initially kept partying at the event in Duisburg, near Duesseldorf, unaware of the deadly panic that started when police tried to prevent thousands more people from entering the already-jammed parade grounds.
Police are still trying to determine exactly what happened at the event that drew hundreds of thousands of people, but the situation was “very chaotic,” police commissioner Juergen Kieskemper said.
He said just before the stampede occurred at about 5 p.m., police had closed off the area where the parade was being held because it was already overcrowded. They told revelers over loudspeakers to turn around and walk back in the other direction before the panic broke out, he said.
Emergency workers had trouble getting to the victims in the large tunnel that leads to the grounds.
A young man told WDR television that he was among those caught up in the crush.
“Both my legs were trapped _ then, thank God, somebody helped me up, then I helped another up … and then, kind of by luck, we were pushed back out of the crowd,” he said. The station did not identify him.
Another young man who wasn’t named told n-tv television the tunnel became so crowded that people fell over.
“It got tighter and tighter from minute to minute and at some point everyone just wanted out, and they only saw the two exits to the right and left,” he said. “The pressure from behind become so high that … we couldn’t do anything any more. People were just pushed together until they fell over.”
Duisburg city officials decided at a crisis meeting to let the parade go on to prevent more panic and another stampede, said city spokesman Frank Kopatschek.
“The crisis meeting determined not to stop the event because at the moment there are too many people on the grounds,” he said.
It is the worst accident of its kind since nine people were crushed to death and 43 more were injured at a rock festival in Roskilde, Denmark, in 2000. That fatal accident occurred when a huge crowd pushed forward during a Pearl Jam gig.
The Love Parade was once an institution in Berlin, but has been held in the industrial Ruhr region of western Germany since 2007.
The original Berlin Love Parade grew from a 1989 peace demonstration into a huge outdoor celebration of club culture that drew about 1.5 million people at its peak in 1999. But it suffered from financial problems and tensions with city officials in later years, and eventually moved.