DUISBURG, Germany – Throngs of techno fans followed the floats, the dancers and the throbbing music to the festival venue: an old freight railway station that local media estimated could handle 300,000 people.
German media reported that as many as 1.4 million people showed up to the Love Parade, where a mass panic Saturday left 19 people crushed to death and 342 injured. Police blamed organizers and officials in Duisburg, an industrial city that gave the world’s largest techno music festival a home after it was driven from Berlin because of noise and overcrowding.
Witnesses, however, blamed police and private security staff, saying the panic broke out after they closed the end of a tunnel – the only entrance to the festival grounds – when the venue became too full. Police denied that, saying they opened a second exit to disperse the masses before the accident happened.
It remained unclear Sunday what exactly triggered the panic, but it appeared that several people trying to escape the pushing crowds climbed up a steep metal stairway on a ramp in front of the tunnel and fell into the crowd. Amateur video footage showed thousands of festivalgoers crammed wall to wall, with some trying desperately to climb out. Police said nobody was killed inside the tunnel itself.
Police did not confirm the 1.4 million estimate and suggested that it was much lower based on the fact that the railway service registered 105,000 as arriving in the city by train in the preceding hours.
Organizer Rainer Schaller said the Love Parade will never be held again out of respect for the victims.
“The Love Parade was always a peaceful event and a happy party,” but would forever be overshadowed by the tragedy, Schaller said.