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'My girlfriend is dying. Please make some room!'

The Local · 27 Jul 2010, 12:09

Published: 27 Jul 2010 12:09 GMT+02:00

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When 26-year-old student and DJ Andy Meisser met his friends Stefan, Felix and Annika in his Hagen kitchen at 10:50 am on Saturday, July 24, they were looking forward to a day of partying and dancing at the Love Parade. After a few beers, they walked to the Hagen train station and boarded the 12:50 for Duisburg.

Upon arrival around 2:30 pm, they started walking the two kilometres to the event site. At first, it was smooth going. But the closer they got to the disused train yard where the main party was being held, the more often they were delayed by police barricades. Large, irritable groups formed quickly at the checkpoints, where tempers flared and some shouted obscenities at police officers.

“It took us a while to understand the concept. Obviously they were trying to control the flow of people and only allowed small groups to move forward towards the event site,” said Meisser, who spins house music in clubs around the Ruhr region between his studies at a technical college in Hagen, 80 kilometres from Duisburg.

Click here for photos of the Love Parade tragedy.

The atmosphere became increasingly heated and agitated as groups coming from different parts of the city converged on the last checkpoint ahead of the now infamous tunnel – the only entrance to the techno party’s main stage area at the rail yard.

When Meisser and his friends made their way into the narrow tunnel, they were heading for a ramp about 200 metres away on their left. It was around 5 pm. But just as they were about to turn onto the ramp – just 15 metres from where 12 bodies were later found – the tunnel became so jammed that breathing became nearly impossible.

“I could barely get any air into my lungs, it felt like someone was poking my chest with a stick,” Meisser said. “We were unable to control which way we were going, somehow we were just swayed by the movement of the masses. Sometimes you´d be pushed to the left, then to the right, then forward. The key was to anticipate the movement of the crowd – you tried to move your feet in the same direction. Otherwise, you´d fall and be doomed.”

Meisser, Stefan and Felix tried to prevent 21-year-old Annika from being crushed by putting their arms around her, creating a protective ring around the petite young woman, who no longer had the strength to protect herself.

“It was hot. Everyone was sweaty. People were afraid for their lives,” Meisser told The Local. “The anxiety level was boiling, the stench of people literally peeing in their pants, panicking, was incredible.”

Finally Felix, the strongest and tallest of the group, managed to push his way out and into some open space and move ahead. Meanwhile Meisser, Stefan and Annika were fighting for their lives. They managed not to fall, mainly because there was no space to fall into, Meisser said.

The massive crush had pushed the three friends closer to one of the tunnel walls, just underneath some portable toilets and containers. While the wall offered stabilization and people leaned against it to avoid falling, others managed to scramble up the toilets and containers, creating some space.

“I realized we needed to use that opportunity, and we just had to get out of there,” Meisser said. “I was desperate and yelled, ‘My girlfriend is dying, please make some room!'”

His strategy worked. Meisser and Stefan managed to drag Annika, now barely conscious, out of the chaos – but not without force.

“We had to push, shove, mobilise our last energy reserves to get away from the people.”

The group was still in the tunnel, though, and had reached the middle where police created some breathing room by pulling people out of the crowd and directing them back toward the train station. First aid workers had placed injured people on the ground, and one young woman lay motionless, a tube protruding from her chest. A few metres away, firefighters were trying unsuccessfully to resuscitate another young woman on the footpath.

Meisser, Stefan and Annika sat down, someone gave them water, and they slowly regained their strength. It was about 5:50 pm.

At 5:14 pm Andy had received a text message from Felix after he managed to get out: “Love Parade´s badly organized. Wouldn´t be surprised if people died max. 50 metres away from us.”

Later the group found out that most of the 20 victims died just 16 metres away from where they’d been struggling to stay on their feet.

At 5:24 pm, Felix sent Andy another text message with the following words: “Tears everywhere, more and more badly injured people. Total bewilderment. It´s like one of the worst disaster movies ever.”

Only it was brutal reality. Meisser said he’d never seen such distress, “and they weren't just bawling, these people had streams and streams of tears running down their cheeks, everybody was in total shock, stunned.”

Story continues below…

The group managed to reunite with Felix, but gave up pushing through more people to catch a train home around 7 pm.

“At that point, we´d just had it with crowds,” he said.

The four friends managed to find a taxi that took them back to Hagen – where they arrived at around 9 pm.

“We just went to our local pub, met with our friends, ate some burgers and had a few beers, trying to absorb what we had seen during that awful day,” he said. "But it will probably take a long time to truly overcome these horrible minutes. The smell, the faces, the tears – it´ll be very, very difficult to forget," says Meisser.

Asked who was responsible for the deadly turn of events and whether police acted properly, his judgement was firm: “I have nothing bad to say about the cops. When hell broke loose, they did the best they could. They pulled people out, helped everyone.”

But the event organisers who reportedly had authorisation for only 250,000 participants, instead of the estimated 1.4 million actually present, were at fault, he said.

“Whoever cooked up the idea of leading hundreds of thousands of people through that bottleneck of a tunnel and up that small ramp to the event site needs to be held accountable.”

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Your comments about this article

13:47 July 27, 2010 by moistvelvet
What a strange photograph to use for this article, if it is a photo of DJ DJ Andy meisser DJ (available to spin house music in clubs around the Ruhr region don't forget) then it hardly portrays a person who will take a long time to truly overcome these horrible minutes, or perhaps it is a photograph of Michael Remmert, in which case why is it a photograph of Michael Remmert?

¦quot;We had to push, shove, mobilise our last energy reserves to get away from the people.¦quot; ...and to the hell with the consequences that this may have on other people? Kind of sums up the sellfish attitude that probably added to the carnage.

A sellfish attitude that is reflected 2 hours later when outside the danger area of initial panic:

"The group managed to reunite with Felix, but gave up pushing through more people to catch a train home around 7 pm."

And finally:

"We just went to our local pub, met with our friends, ate some burgers and had a few beers, trying to absorb what we had seen during that awful day,¦quot; ...and wondered how can we benefit from this, afterall passengers on the ICE got 500 euro?

Sorry, although I sympathise with anyone who may have suffered in this mess, I do find that in my opinion the way this article is portrayed is that some people are simply ca$hing in on the tradgey and should examine their own attitudes and behaviour when in crowds.

True that I wasn't there, but I have been in many conjested crowds of 10,000s at festivals and in tunnels, tiring and exhausting it may be, but I've always seen a sense of solidarity and superhuman will to push back the crowds and help those that are in danger. It is hard to fathom how this did not happen in Duisburg, perhaps drugs paid a part, but equally the desperate actions of people like DJ Andy Meisser and co probably didn't help anyone but themselves.

Cold and hard, sorry but that is my opinion!
14:32 July 27, 2010 by Fatz Lewinski
I agree with your comment on the foto but not necessarily with the after-reaction. In a previous job in an old psychiatric hospital, I once discovered a fire and had to enusure the evacuation of 200 already disturbed patients. As the smoke got thicker and the air more difficult to breath, there was an incresing sense of panic from both patients and staff - partially because one wishes to find lost patients but mostly cos you want to get out yourself.

There was minimal loss of life but it was a very harrowing experience andI do recall that my first instinct after it was over was to go to a pub with a couple of friends.

Everyone reacts differently to this type of experience and this forum shouldn't judge these comments.
14:52 July 27, 2010 by moistvelvet
Fair enough Fatz, but I did say that it was only my opinion of how the article portrayed the story of DJ DJ Andy Meisser DJ.

Personally although I accept that people ultimately react with self preservation in mind, as Felix did, the fact that Herr Meisser turned to a journo for comfort only days after the incident, while projecting a story of his grief, in my opinion leaves him open to be questioned by those who is comments were directed towards, the consumers of the news. He wanted to tell a story for us to hear, surely we are free to comment on this story and the party goers just as much as comments are made about the organisers of this event.
16:43 July 27, 2010 by snorge
I find the photo strange as well.... Not the type of foto one would expect after reading the article... Then again, that could be the only one they had of the guy, one never knows.
15:26 July 29, 2010 by moistvelvet
jmjdk, you find my comments way out of line, that is fine as it is your opinion, but leave me to have mine.

As for the rest of your rant, they are just assumptions being passed off as fact "it is quite clear", where as I think I always made sure to make clear it was my opinion of how the article was portrayed, I never said "it is quite clear" how DJ Andy Meisser, Stefan, Felix or Annika thought at the time.
23:03 August 1, 2010 by halcorp
moistvelvet, I couldn't disagree more, and adding 'just my opinion' to the end of an arguement doesn't resolve you of responsibility for your point of view. So how about letting other people have a point of view about your point of view.

Their friend was dieing, in that instance you do whatever it takes to help your friend. Some people are less able to cope with the (literal) pressure that they were under, and this girl needed to be out of there more than some others.

Also, how can you imply they did this interview for money when you know nothing about them? Perhaps they just wanted to talk about their experience so the publuc has a better idea about what went on in the tunnel.
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