21 people killed over the weekend at Love Parade
BERLIN (AP) — German state authorities on Wednesday accused the organizer of last weekend’s Love Parade techno festival of major security breaches which may have led to the crush that killed 21 people and injured more than 500.
The organizer’s security officials failed to properly control the entrance area where the victims were crushed, according to North Rhine-Westphalia’s Interior Minister Ralf Jaeger and the state’s chief police controller Dieter Wehe.
“Security did not fulfill its duty,” Wehe said while presenting the key findings of a preliminary police investigation at a news conference.
It was unclear if 150 staffers who were supposed to be posted at the entrance area were really present, Wehe said, adding: “But it is a fact that the existing security detail was insufficient.”
When the organizers couldn’t manage to control the flow of tens of thousands pouring into the event area in Duisburg, they eventually turned to the police for help, he said.
Interior Minister Jaeger said the organizer, Rainer Schaller, failed to stop the flow of people into the tunnel when the situation was already tense at the entrance to the festival grounds.
“The organizer did not fulfill the requirements of his security concept,” Jaeger told journalists.
Schaller, for his part, has fought back against the accusations of wrongdoing, noting that his security concept received official city approval. “Without the official stamp of approval we never would have let the Love Parade take place,” he was quoted as saying in the Bild daily on Wednesday.
The preliminary report also left many unanswered questions regarding the responsibility of the Duisburg municipality, who was responsible for overseeing the event.
Wehe said the final authorization providing all organizational details was only passed on to police on Saturday after it repeatedly requested it. The authorization allowed a maximum of 250,000 people in the area, even though organizers expected many more.
German media estimated that as many as 1.4 million people attended the event.
The authorization also entitled organizers to have shorter and less wide emergency exits and escape routes than required by German law, Wehe said. He added that police had alerted the city before the event about possible problems with the entrance area.
Duisburg Mayor Adolf Sauerland has been widely blamed for failing to adequately oversee the event in the past days, but he rejected all accusations and has refused to resign.
Prosecutors have opened an investigation into negligent manslaughter, but have not yet identified suspects.
The death toll, meanwhile, rose to 21 on Wednesday after a 25-year-old German woman died overnight from her injuries, Duisburg prosecutors’ spokesman Rolf Haferkamp said.
More than 500 people also were injured in the crush at a jammed tunnel that was the lone entrance to the festival grounds.
A memorial service for the victims will be held on Saturday with Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Christian Wulff attending.