Nineteen people were killed and nearly 400 injured after chaos broke out at Love Parade 2010, a dance music festival in Duisberg, Germany, on Saturday. The stampede took place in a tunneled underpass that connected the festival’s main area and an expansion site that was opened nearby after close to 1.4 million people showed up for the free festival, well more than the 800,000 expected to attend. Many of the victims were crushed against walls in the tunnel as attendees flooded the underpass from both entrances. Despite the casualties, the Love Parade was allowed to continued as scheduled because organizers and police feared a cancellation would only add to the panic, CNN reports.
“The pressure from behind become so high that… we couldn’t do anything any more. People were just pushed together until they fell over,” one festivalgoer told a local German paper, according to the BBC. Another attendee added that inside the underpass, “Everywhere you looked, there were people with blue faces.” Duisberg police president Detlef von Schmeling said 16 of the deaths took place on the steps of an entrance ramp to the underpass. The police defended their security plan at the festival — 4,000 officers were reportedly on hand — but an investigation is underway to find out why the crush in the underpass occurred.
The Love Parade launched in 1989 in Berlin as a peace celebration in the months prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The fest was moved to western Germany in 2007 after a two-year hiatus, and last year’s event was canceled. Following the tragedy, Love Parade organizer Rainer Schaller said the festival would be permanently disbanded “out of respect for the victims, their families and friends.” “The Love Parade has always been a peaceful event and a joyous celebration, which will now forever be overshadowed by the tragic deaths,” Schaller said in a statement.
Artists including DJ David Guetta reacted to the tragedy on Twitter. “What happened today is heartbreaking and unprecedented,” Guetta, who was scheduled to perform at the fest, tweeted. “I won’t [be] with you at Love Parade. I trust that my fans who came to dance with me will understand why. If you are there please move slowly and safely home. My sincere sympathies to anyone who has been touched by this.”
The Love Parade tragedy is the deadliest music festival incident since 10 festivalgoers were crushed to death during Pearl Jam’s performance at the Roskilde Festival in 2000. As Rolling Stone previously reported, following the death of a 15-year-old girl at Los Angeles’ Electric Daisy rave, dance festivals have also come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks. “The Love Parade was supposed to be a peaceful and joyful festival for young people from the region and beyond,” Duisburg’s Senior Mayor Adolf Sauerland said. “Now this event must unfortunately be considered to be one of the great tragedies in the contemporary history of the city. I am deeply shaken.” The Love Parade has set up a Book of Condolences section on its official website.