Ger­man safety of­fi­cials say they warned about Love Pa­rade site

Austin American-Statesman - - MONDAYBRIEFING - By Kirsten Grieshaber and Frank Aug­stein

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.

Frank Aug­stein

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.

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