Thursday 20 June 2019

Deadly disco stampede 'triggered by pepper spray'

Matteo Salvini: Interior minister said 1,400 tickets had been sold. Photo: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters
Matteo Salvini: Interior minister said 1,400 tickets had been sold. Photo: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

Frances D'Emilo

Italian police investigating a deadly disco stampede said they found a pepper spray can and were questioning dozens of witnesses yesterday following accounts by concertgoers that a teenage boy had sprayed an irritating substance, triggering the mad rush by the crowd to flee.

It wasn't known if the can found was the one whose spray apparently set off the stampede at about 1am Saturday in a crowd awaiting a rapper's performance in the Lanterna Azzurra (Blue Lantern) disco in Corinaldo, a small town in the Marche region of east-central Italy, the Carabiniere paramilitary police commander of Ancona province, Colonel Cristian Carrozza, told reporters.

He also declined to confirm Italian media reports that a 16-year-old boy had been identified as the sprayer and would be questioned by juvenile court officials.

Five teens, all juveniles, and a woman who had accompanied her 11-year-old daughter to the concert, died in the crush of fleeing concertgoers who toppled over a railing atop a cement ramp outside an exit. The railing gave way, sending young people tumbling over it and landing atop of each other in the area below the ramp, about 1.5 meters below.

On Saturday, prosecutors and Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told reporters that nearly 1,400 tickets had been sold, while the disco could safely hold only 870 people, with the capacity of the room of the concert itself set at about 460.

Yesterday, Col Carrozza said a count of ticket stubs indicated about 600 tickets were used for entry. It was unclear if others might have gotten in without having tickets checked by disco personnel.

One of the DJs, Marco Cecchini, told reporters he was sure that more than just one room of the disco was open, in addition to the one with the 460-person capacity.

"I've done 40-50 evenings in that place, and, sincerely, there weren't so many people. I'd estimate maybe 800-900 people, but all the rooms were open," the Italian news agency ANSA quoted Mr Cecchini, who is the son of one of the disco's managers, as saying.

Seven of the more than 50 people injured in the stampede remained in critical condition yesterday while the remaining patients were either already discharged or about to be discharged after their condition improved.

Irish Independent

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