In the city of Duisburg in western Germany there now stands a steel memorial bearing the names of the 21 young people who died at last year’s Love Parade, held in the city. This Sunday, a memorial service will mark the anniversary of the tragedy – and survivors and victims’ families will again ask how Europe’s biggest and best-loved dance music event ended in catastrophe.
In addition to the deaths, more than 500 revellers were injured in a crush that formed in a tunnel between the train station and the festival site. Investigations into the culpability of event organisers and city officials are still ongoing. “But punishment alone doesn’t go far enough,” said local politician Ralf Jäger earlier this year. “It is at least as important for us to reach the right conclusions from the Love Parade for large events in the future.”
It’s a familiar refrain, yet crowd fatalities are becoming more frequent, not less. In the past decade alone, hundreds have been crushed to death at football matches, fireworks displays, shopping malls and religious gatherings worldwide. In terms of deaths caused by crushing at pop music events, Love Parade is second only to the 1999 Minsk beer festival in Belarus, where 53 people died while entering a nearby tube station.
One of the expert witnesses in the Love Parade case is Professor G Keith Still, a Scottish academic. Though Still is legally forbidden to comment on the Love Parade tragedy, he can talk generally about his team’s extensive database of crushes going back to 1902. “Accidents don’t just happen, they’re caused,” says Still. “Every disaster we’ve researched was avoidable.”
In 1974, 14-year-old Bernadette Whelan became the first fatality at a British pop concert when she asphyxiated at a David Cassidy show in London.
Here is a documentary about the tragedy last year with some video footage that was shot during the stampede.