Partygoers tried to save Seoul stampede victims, but were already dead

Partygoers celebrating in Seoul’s Itaewon district, where at least 153 people were killed in the Halloween crowd surge Saturday, were asked to help resuscitate victims of the stampede — some of whom were already dead by the time they got help.

Officials in Seoul, South Korea said Sunday that 19 of the victims were foreign nationals, including one American. The ages and identities of the victims have not been shared.

One partygoer, a 24-year-old named Ana visiting from Spain, told the BBC she and her friend Melissa, 19, from Germany, had been at a bar next to where the crush took place and were trying to leave as ambulances arrived.

Neither knew how to perform CPR, but quickly began following instructions given by others at the scene.

“They were telling me how to hold their heads and open their mouths, and things like that. I was trying to help but they were both dead as well. I have to say all the people they were bringing in to do CPR, most of them were already not breathing so they couldn’t do anything,” Ana said.

Rescue workers and firefighters try to help injured people.
19 of the victims were foreign nationals, including one American.
AP
People comfort each other after a stampede at a packed Halloween event in central Seoul.
People comfort each other following the deadly stampede.
AFP via Getty Images
Flowers are laid at the scene of a Halloween stampede.
Flowers are laid at the scene of the Halloween stampede.
AFP via Getty Images

So many people were in need of help that everyone lent a hand, according to Ana, who said it was particularly traumatic because there wasn’t much they could do to help.

“There were so many people that they needed normal people to do CPR. So everyone started jumping in and help. We had two friends who knew how to do CPR and they went out to help,” Ana said.

“Three minutes later or maybe more, they came back, looking so traumatized and crying. Because they tried to save five or six people and they all died in my friends’ hands.”

Rescue workers, policemen and civilians try to rescue people at the scene.
Rescue workers, policemen and civilians try to rescue people at the scene of the stampede.
Yonhap via REUTERS
A street in Itaewon district is pictured full of people before a stampede.
A street in Itaewon district is pictured full of people before a stampede.
Yonhap via REUTERS

She added: “We couldn’t do anything, that was the main trauma.”

An estimated 100,000 people, many young adults in their 20s and 30s, attended Halloween celebrations in Itaewon this weekend after two years of COVID restrictions in South Korea were finally lifted.

Videos posted online showed people in costumes being pushed through the narrow streets. Some appeared to climb walls on either side in an attempt to escape the horrifying crush. Other videos and photos taken at the scene show body bags, emergency responders performing CPR and rescuers pulling unconscious people out of the crowd.

The streets were so densely packed with people and slow moving vehicles that it was practically impossible for emergency response teams and ambulances to get there swiftly.

As of Sunday evening, the official death toll was 153, with at least 133 suffering from injuries. The death count could rise as 37 of those injured were in serious condition.

Ninety-seven of the dead were women and 56 were men. Over 80% of the dead were in their 20s and 30s, and at least four were teenagers.

This is a developing story.


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