Tragedy at Germany's Love Parade: As death toll rises, organizers disband event
At least 19 people reportedly died at the Love Parade, a well-known dance event in the German city of Duisburg, and more than 340 were said to be injured as the apparent closure of a gate resulted in a suffocating crush of people. Duisburg Mayor Adolf Sauerland was quoted in German press as saying the Love Parade was "one of the biggest tragedies the city has ever experienced," and festival organizers announced Sunday that the event would be discontinued permanently.
The Love Parade, a techno- and trance-focused DJ-led event, turned deadly late Saturday afternoon as attendees were trapped in a tunnel leading to the main concert site. The exact cause of the crush was difficult to pinpoint, but numerous eyewitness accounts and reports from the German and British media seemed to indicate the tunnel exit was closed when it was determined the event was at capacity. Yet those awaiting to get in continued to move forward even as those at the end of the tunnel attempted to turn around.
The below is from a detailed timeline of events in Germany's Deutsche Welle:
A bottleneck forms in the tunnel as people continue pushing forward. Simultaneously, others attempt to move in the opposite direction to return to the railway station. The air begins to thin and panic builds as some attempt to escape -- to no avail. Many people are intoxicated or using drugs, and are severely dehydrated.
The BBC has quoted police officials as saying 14 were killed on the steps outside the tunnel. At least six of the dead were said to be foreigners, ranging in age from 20 to 40. It appeared to have been hours before medical personnel could safely navigate the crowd and reach the tunnel, and the concert wasn't immediately canceled as organizers feared a mass panic.
News of the tragedy did not immediately reach those inside or performing at the event. Trance star DJ Tiësto was one of Love Parade's headliners, and the artist noted on his Twitter account that he was not informed of the incident until he was out of the country.
"I want to send my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the people who died today," wrote Tiësto. "I am really upset and sad about this."
Love Parade organizer Rainer Schaller addressed the media on Sunday and said he was permanently discontinuing the dance gathering in the wake of the tragedy. "We are going to discontinue the event in the future and that means to say the Love Parade will no longer take place," Schaller said at Sunday's press conference, which can be viewed on the BBC website.
The Love Parade was established in Berlin in 1989, and this year marked the first time the event was held in Duisburg. Last year's event was scheduled for Bochum but was reportedly canceled over concerns about policing the massive crowd.
The tragedy comes as dance-focused events have fallen under increased scrutiny, especially in Los Angeles. This summer's Electric Daisy Carnival at L.A. Memorial Coliseum and adjoining Exposition Park led to more than 100 hospitalizations. A 15-year-old girl died of a suspected drug overdose after attending the two-day dance event. Dance culture has since been a focus of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which has established a rave task force.
Though the Insomniac Events' Electric Daisy Carnival averaged 80,000 to 100,000 attendees per day, its size and scope paled in comparison to those of the Love Parade. There does not yet appear to be an accurate attendance figure for the German event; some estimates have it as high as 1.4 million.
That number may be somewhat inflated; organizers were reportedly prepared for about 700,000 attendees. The BBC has quoted officials as saying attendance was closer to 350,000; Deutsche Welle estimated it closer to 500,000. It's unclear whether the figures differentiate between those who descended upon Duisburg and those who made it inside the concert venue.
Here in Los Angeles, the Coliseum Commission has imposed a temporary ban on rave contracts, although three events scheduled for the remainder of 2010 were granted approval to continue. The commission — the joint state, county and city panel that oversees the venue — has, however, imposed new restrictions on the promoters of dance events.
Going forward, promoters must enforce a strict age limit of 18 by checking identification, hire a team of emergency-room doctors to work on-site and warn rave-goers about the dangers of the illegal drug Ecstasy, which some rave attendees see as an integral part of the experience. Rong-Gong Lin II has more details in his recent Times story: "Coliseum imposes conditions on three scheduled raves."
Insomniac Events issued a press release Sunday stating that its 18-and-older policy was successfully enforced at Saturday's dance and hip-hop Audiotistic concert, which was held at the NOS Center in San Bernardino. "Audiotistic 2010 proves that Insomniac Events knows how to produce a safe and secure music festival and that an 18 and older policy can be implemented successfully,” said Pasquale Rotella, Insomniac’s chief executive, in a statement.
-- Todd Martens
Photos, from top: Concert-goers attempt to escape the crowd. Credit: EPA. Chalk outlines of two victims. Credit: Reuters. An overview of the crowd and tunnels at Love Parade. Credit: Getty Images