No More Love Parades

German prosecutors have launched an investigation into how 19 people were crushed to death at the Love Parade in Duisburg July 24 and the head organizer has said that’s the end of the event. Another 350 people were injured.

Der Spiegel has revealed local police and fire brigades in Duisburg had recruited security experts to monitor the run-up to the festival, and they had warned it was vital to avoid the kind of “eye of the needle” situation that is believed to have caused the tragedy.

The German weekly also claims the experts advised it would be better to allow the crowd several access routes, although the organizers allegedly rejected their views because it would have meant far higher police costs.

The safety experts are also reported to have warned that the 23-hecatre former railway depot on the edge of the Ruhr Valley city was large enough for half a million visitors, about one third of the number estimated to have turned up.

Wolfgang Orscheschek, a spokesman for the police union representing the 1,400 officers on duty at Love Parade, said the victims had been “sacrificed for material interests.”

“They had no choice but to say yes to the event, despite urgent warnings from security experts that it should not have gone ahead,” he explained.

Last year the nearby city of Bochum pulled out of staging Love Parade because of similar safety concerns. Despite misgivings and a campaign by local residents to ban the event, Duisburg’s mayor Adolf Sauerland said the security concept had been sound.

He said he’s unable to make further comment due to the police investigation, beyond expressing his sympathy to the victims and their relatives.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said she is shocked at the horrible and sad turn of events and that everything must be done to ensure such a tragedy isn’t repeated.

“I think we need an intense investigation now into how this happened,” she said.

Various eyewitness accounts say the incident occurred because there were too many people trying to pass through a tunnel that’s 100 metres long and 16 metres wide. It has no escape routes.

They say it quickly became hot and airless and scores of people inside collapsed. Others were said to have fallen an estimated nine metres from a ladder when they tried to find another route out of the grounds.

At least 10 people had to be resuscitated. Sixteen died at the festival, and the other three in or on their way to hospital. Medical staff on the scene, who had trouble getting through the crowd to attend to the injured, said many people died from asphyxiation and back injuries.

City officials held a press conference July 25 to announce that 16 of the 19 victims, all between the ages of 20 and 40, have been identified.

Love Parade head organizer Rainer Schaller, whose team is fully co-operating with the investigation, announced that the tragedy means the end of the event. It was first held in Berlin in 1989 but financial problems and tensions with city officials caused it to move.

“The Love Parade has always been a peaceful party, but it will forever be overshadowed by the accident, so out of respect for the victims the Love Parade will never take place again,” he said.

It is the worst festival accident since nine people were crushed to death and 43 more were injured at Roskilde Festival, Denmark, in 2000. That was caused by a huge crowd in front of the main stage pushing forward during Pearl Jam’s set.