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First Love Parade report to be released today

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First Love Parade report to be released today
Photo: DPA
08:09 CEST+02:00
The organisers of the Love Parade at which 20 people were crushed to death in a stampede will face intense pressure Wednesday with the release of an interim government assessment that reportedly blames them squarely for the deaths.

North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Minister Ralf Jäger will release a report detailing numerous planning failures by fitness entrepreneur Rainer Schaller's event-organising firm, Lopavent, daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

The failures include ignoring repeated warnings by authorities that the plans were unsafe, the paper reported. It came as organiser Schaller denied pressuring city officials and insisted the planning requirements had been strictly followed.

Investigators have concluded that Lopavent based its crowd control plan on false assumptions about how the crowds would be channelled into the main festival area, the interim government report says.

Lopavent had also used fewer dedicated crowd-control officials – including police – than it has previously said and ignored suggestions to install a video surveillance system at the access area, the report says.

Click here for photos of the Love Parade tragedy.

The sole access to the dance area was a ramp onto which the crowds were herded from the tunnel, which was just 16 metres wide, the report says. This is where 20 people – 12 women and eight men – died and more than 500 were injured, some of whom remain in a critical condition.

The report concludes that the crowds had not moved quickly from the ramp onto the festival area in the disused train yard as the organisers had expected. Many party-goers had congregated just inside the entrance, blocking up the ramp and creating pressure as more visitors arrived.

Police sources have told various media organisations that they warned of this problem before Saturday. A police source told Süddeutsche Zeitung that organisers had responded by insisting everything would run smoothly and saying: “We have our own experience in this.”

Organiser Schaller, however, hit back on Wednesday at accusations his company had neglected safety procedures, pointing out that city officials had approved the plan.

“Without this official stamp, we would never have let the Love Parade go ahead,” he told daily Bild.

Schaller denied putting anyone under pressure to approve the plan and added that none of his employees to his knowledge had pressured officials either. He said there were always concerns raised with such plans.

“The fact is, these concerns were resolved – otherwise none of the parties would have agreed. The police also didn't rule themselves out.”

While admitting he was not sleeping peacefully at night, knowing that “as organisers, we have a great responsibility,” Schaller said that, so far in their own investigation, his company had determined they had “fulfilled all the conditions 100 percent.”

Post-mortem results show the victims died from having their chests crushed. The investigators had first assumed that broken necks would also be the cause of some deaths.

The state prosecutor in Duisburg has announced that it is looking at possible charges of causing negligent death and negligent bodily harm.

Duisburg Mayor Adolf Sauerland, who was ultimately responsible for approving the Love Parade plans, faces serious questions of his own. Sauerland, who has been receiving death threats in the past few days, has denied being told of deep misgivings about the festival's safety provisions from both the police and fire departments.

“The mayor's letterhead is on all the correspondence,” an investigator told daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger.

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