German safety officials say they warned about Love Parade site
DUISBURG, Germany — Throngs of techno fans followed the floats, the dancers and the throbbing music to the festival venue: an old freight railway station that local media estimated could handle 300,000 people.
German media reported that as many as 1.4 million people showed up to the Love Parade, where a mass panic Saturday left 19 people crushed to death and 342 injured. Police blamed organizers and officials in Duisburg, an industrial city that gave the world’s largest techno music festival a home after it was driven from Berlin because of noise and overcrowding.
Witnesses, however, blamed police and private security staff, saying the panic broke out after they closed the end of a tunnel — the only entrance to the festival grounds — when the venue became too full. Police denied that and said they actually opened a second exit to disperse the masses before the accident happened.
One thing is clear: The Love Parade is no more. Organizer Rainer Schaller said it will never be held again out of respect for the victims.
“The Love Parade was always a peaceful event and a happy party,” but would forever be overshadowed by the tragedy, Schaller said at a news conference.
Police said those killed were between the ages of 18 and 38 and included several foreigners, among them Spaniards, an Australian, an Italian, a Bosnian, a Chinese citizen and a person from the Netherlands.
According to media reports, local police and firefighters expressed concerns early on about whether Duisburg was big enough to host a million people or more.
A high-ranking firefighter warned the city’s mayor in a letter in October against holding the event at the old freight railway station “because the place is not big enough for all the people,” the daily Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger reported.
A day after the tragedy, the tunnel — still strewn with trash and metal barriers overturned in a panic — was a site of mourning. Amid the candles, flowers and written notes just outside one end of the tunnel was a cardboard sign that simply asked “Why?”
Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed shock at the “horrible, sad” turn of events and said everything must be done to ensure such tragedies don’t repeat themselves.
“I think we need an intense investigation now into how this happened,” she said Sunday in Bayreuth, where she was attending the opening of the yearly Wagner music festival.
“We must do everything to prevent this from being repeated,” Merkel said.
A woman visits the site of the Love Parade incident in Duisburg, Germany, on Sunday. Nineteen people died as a result of a stampede at the music fest Saturday.