First Love Parade report blames organisers: newspaper

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Organisers of the Love Parade festival were at least partly to blame for a crush that killed 20 people, according to a preliminary assessment cited Wednesday by Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.

The paper said organisers dismissed fears over safety flaws for the rave, during which more than 500 were injured amid scenes of panic and terror in a narrow tunnel that served as the only entrance to the festival grounds.

Ralf Jaeger, the interior minister of the state of North Rhine Westphalia, where the catastrophe happened last Saturday, was due to present initial findings of the investigation later on Wednesday.

The report also charged that the Love Parade's organiser, Rainer Schaller, incorrectly assessed how revellers would act after reaching the festival grounds.

He apparently did not believe there would be a significant blockage as huge parade floats would break up the crowds and force them away from the exit of the tunnel, allowing others to gain access to the grounds.

According to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the interior ministry's report will say that in fact the floats were too close to the tunnel's exit, creating a backlog that resulted in the deadly panic and crush.

Furthermore, food stalls at the tunnel's exit encouraged people to stay in the area, adding to the blockage. The organisers also failed to provide as many security officials as promised and did not install video cameras.

Schaller defended himself in an interview with mass circulation Bild daily, saying he "never put anyone under pressure" to hold the festival despite safety fears.

He acknowledged there were qualms but said there were always concerns over an event of this magnitude and pushed the blame back onto the city of Duisburg, whose under-fire mayor Adolf Sauerland authorised the parade.

"When I get a permit from the authorities that has been examined over a six month period and has been discussed with all participants, then I have to assume as an organiser that everything will work," said Schaller.

© 2010 AFP

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