A Madrid Halloween party headlined by Steve Aoki ended in tragedy last night when three young women died of injuries sustained in the middle of a crowd crush, reports Spain’s El País. Two more people remain in critical condition.
Thriller Music Park, a dance-music event featuring Aoki and Autoerotique, among other acts, was held in the Madrid Arena, and had been authorized to admit entry to 10,600 people (out of a total capacity of 12,000). The event reportedly had not sold out, and a spokesperson said that the event was not full, but some attendees complained that the space was overcrowded; on Twitter, one concertgoer estimated that there had been 20,000 people crammed into the space.
Around 4 A.M., roughly 50 medical personnel were called to the scene to respond to two victims who were unconscious and in cardiac arrest; when they arrived, they found five people in distress. El País reports that their injuries were due to “trauma by crushing, possibly having suffered a fall and being trampled.” Two of the victims were treated on site and declared dead after 30 minutes of attempted resuscitation; a third died shortly upon arrival at a local hospital. The victims were located in two distinct parts of the crowd, but investigators believe that they were all caught in a single crowd movement that swept through the venue.
Police are still investigating the disaster, but signs point to a disturbance in the audience that led to a stampede; it is believed that a flare was set off, triggering a panic in the venue. The crush apparently did not take place on the dance floor itself, but in a “passage of terror” located on a lower floor of the building, which connected to the main floor via stairway.
One concertgoer reported that only one of the exits was open. “There was a human bottleneck at the only exit, because all the others were closed, sealed,” she told El País. “There were people crying, crushed; security personnel dragging away those that were trapped.” A comment on El País‘ Facebook page reports, “I was in the bottleneck that formed and it was inhuman. You couldn’t move forward, because there were people lying on the ground, or backward, because people kept pushing. We were there for like half an hour, until it occurred to someone to open another door, and people began to exit that way.” Another witness describes a claustrophobic scene throughout the venue: “People inside were vomiting, fainting—chaos.”
Other witnesses report that at least 10 exits were open. And many attendees had no idea of the tragedy that had taken place: In order to avoid further stampeding, officials evacuated the event “little by little, normally and with further incident,” according to police sources, finally clearing out the venue by 6:50 A.M., nearly three hours after the incident.
Initial indications—a crowd crush, death by asphyxiation, and the thousands of attendees who were unaware of what appears to be a localized panic—bear striking similarities to the disaster at the 2010 Love Parade in Duisburg, Germany, in which 21 people died of suffocation and another 510 were injured.
UPDATE: Following the events in Madrid, Steve Aoki announced that he would be canceling his November 1 appearance in Bilbao. In a statement on his website, Aoki wrote, “After my performance last night at Thriller Music Park at the Madrid Arena in Spain, I was devastated to hear that three people had died during a crowd rush at one of the exits. The safety of my fans has always been my top priority and had I known that there was any distress putting people in jeopardy within the venue I would have ended my show immediately. My show in Bilbao Spain tonight will be cancelled out of respect for those who lost their lives and those who are injured. I would like to express my deepest condolences and heart felt prayers to the families and loved ones during this difficult time.”