November 02, 2022 09:24
Police received calls from worried pedestrians three hours and 40 minutes before the fatal stampede in Itaewon this Halloween weekend that killed at least 156 people and injured scores of others.
Records of emergency calls on the fateful night show people voicing fears of getting crushed and others asking for police intervention to regulate the crowds.
The first call was made at 6:34 p.m. with one person saying, "We are having problems going down the alley and we might get crushed because people keep pouring in. I think police need to regulate things."
Police received 10 more calls from worried partygoers from 8 to 10 p.m. A second caller at 8:09 p.m. said, "There are so many people here that there's pushing and shoving and people are falling and getting hurt. I think you have to come down here."
A fourth caller at 8:53 p.m. said, "There are so many people here that we're getting crushed. This is total chaos."
Similar complaints were made until 10:11 p.m. The seventh caller who phoned police at 9:07 p.m. said, "There are so many people here that there's a risk of getting crushed to death. Please direct the pedestrian flow so people can move in one direction."
But police responded to only four out of 11 calls and went to the scene to inspect pedestrian traffic. "There are no records of police responding to the other five calls about the crowds from 9:07 p.m. until right before the tragedy happened," an official at the National Police Agency admitted.
The local precinct commander may have made an error of judgement. "Frontline commanders who were dispatched to the scene said they didn't perceive the risks of surging crowds. The decisions made in the field leave something to be desired," the NPA said.
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