Prosecutors begin criminal inquiry into festival deaths

Prosecutors begin criminal inquiry into festival deaths
# 28 July 2010 02:24 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. Prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the deaths of 20 young adults, including a Sydney woman, Clancie Ridley, 27, trampled to death at the Love Parade, as experts accused the dance music festival’s organisers of ignoring Germany’s exemplary safety standards and setting up a death trap, APA reports quoting website.
Prosecutors did not specify who had been named as suspects in the negligent manslaughter probe. But organisers and authorities in the western city of Duisburg have come under fire for allegedly trying to squeeze as many as 1.4 million revellers into too small a space and for allowing the party to go on even after the deaths.
The tragedy on Saturday happened near a jammed tunnel that was the only entrance to the festival grounds in an old freight railway station. Police said 511 people were injured.
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’’This is not a tragic disaster, this is a crime,’’ said Marek Lieberberg, who manages concerts for singers such as Shakira and Sting.
He called for the mayor’s resignation, saying the disaster was a result of ’’megalomania’’ by the city and a huge violation of safety rules that turned the tunnel into a ’’deadly trap’’.
German authorities and event organisers have handled huge crowds in the past without problems, including at the Catholic youth gathering in 2005 attended by Pope Benedict and the World Cup a year later, but some German authorities and security experts were calling for tighter oversight of festival planning.
Germany’s interior ministry, which oversees police and security, said the Duisburg tragedy must force a re-examination of security at large events, a day after the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, urged a thorough investigation.
Officials and event organisers pledged to review planning for coming events to make sure they met security standards.
Much of the criticism stems from the fact there was only one way in and out of the festival grounds. It remains unclear what triggered the panic, but it appears people trying to escape the surging crowd climbed up a metal stairway in front of the tunnel, then fell and were trampled or crushed.
’’The most basic thing for such big events really is that you can never have a common entry and exit,’’ said Carsten Simon, the managing director of SAFE, which handles security at huge concert venues. ’’You can’t allow the crowds to run into each other.’’
The event should have been stopped immediately, Mr Lieberberg said, because if fear spread among the crowd inside the packed event, the outcome could have been much worse.
Organisers of the Love Parade have said the festival will cease operation.
A physics professor at the University of Cologne, Andreas Schadschneider, who researches evacuation dynamics, said the smallest incident under such circumstances can be fatal.
’’The forces in such human crowds are unimaginable.’’
Similar disasters have brought change in the past. There was a sweeping modernisation of English football stadiums and a transformation of policing methods after the 1989 disaster at Hillsborough in Sheffield, where 96 people died after being crushed and suffocated in overcrowded sections of the stadium.
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