Extreme Fear

Getting a grip on the brain's alarm system

Readers Set Me Straight: The Love Parade Tragedy

Readers Set Me Straight: The Love Parade Tragedy

Since I wrote about the stampede at Germany's Love Parade on Saturday, a clearer picture of the event has emerged. Eyewitnesses, including some readers of this blog, have stated that the deaths were not due to a panicked stampede, but rather to the simple force of human bodies pressing forward into a dead-end space. Writes Keith Martin:

It wasn't fear. It was necessity. I was in there. It was poor planning and far too many people. We were all stuck in a tunnel... NO WAY OUT. There was a mile long line of people behind us and when the venue filled, they simply closed the gates. We had nowhere to go and people kept pushing. Once exhaustion/dehydration set in people could no longer stand or remain conscious so they would collapse and people would fall on them and a body pile would assemble, with those at the body never getting back up. It wasnt fear... People had no choice but to crush each other.

Reader Mats writes:

I also was there, and have to agree with Keith. There was no panic and no stampede, there was just a slow grind as the enclosed area filled up with more and more people, and the ones in front were told to move back again against the people coming in, and people falling trying to climb out... I was in the crowd well before the big crush happened - I was into the festival area at 15:00 - but even then the crowd was intense and I saw with my own eyes a lifeless body being carried out on a stretcher from the tunnel. Ironically, the first thing I did when getting into the entrance area was what you recommend, taking note of exits and escape routes with the intention of getting out ASAP - only to find there was not a single one. There was really no way out, not from the entrance area, the festival area or from the crowd. Even if the entrance had worked, in my mind there is no question there would be an equal incident on the actual parade grounds - even there every single exit was locked down and not opened before the disaster was a fact.

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I was careful to note in my original post that the psychology of panic is only half the story when it comes to crowd stampedes; once the mass shoving is underway, the question of automatic versus deliberate action becomes irrelevant. In the case of the Duisburg tragedy, it seems that what happened wasn't really the result of a stampede at all, in the strict sense, but rather a kind of slow-motion build up of pressure onto a crowd with no avenue for escape. At any rate, an investigation into the incident is currently underway, so hopefully in due time fuller answers will emerge.

 

Jeff Wise is a New York-based science writer and author of Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger.

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