Wednesday 18 September 2019

Six dead as walkway collapses amid Italy disco stampede

Six people died in a stampede at a nightclub in central Italy after panic erupted in the early hours of December 8 morning. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco/AFP
Six people died in a stampede at a nightclub in central Italy after panic erupted in the early hours of December 8 morning. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco/AFP

Paddy Agnew

Six people, five teenagers and a mother, died in the early hours of yesterday morning when the railings on a walkway outside a discotheque collapsed, suddenly plunging more than 100 people onto a hard surface six feet below.

The tragedy happened in Corinaldo, a small town not far from the Adriatic port of Ancona in north-east Italy.

The incident appears to have been provoked by a crowd panic in the Lanterna Azzurra Clubbing disco, which was packed for the concert of popular local rapper Sfera Ebbasta.

Police are investigating reports a girl set off a pepper canister spray inside the disco, prompting people to flee the dance hall and make for the exits.

It was then that the tragedy happened. In the confusion, those people who were escaping to get outside to the fresh air found themselves caught up in a human traffic jam on the walkway or bridge at one of the exits. Mobile phone footage shows people struggling to move forward on the jammed walkway when, without any apparent warning, the railings on one side gave way, probably plunging the six people to their deaths.

As well as the six dead, a further 13 teenagers suffered life-threatening injuries, linked to head and back injuries, while 57 other clubbers were hospitalised with less serious injuries.

Early reports suggested the tragedy had been provoked by blocked exit doors, similar to Dublin's infamous Stardust tragedy in 1981. Both public prosecutors and carabinieri on the scene yesterday morning ruled out this possibility while the mobile phone footage indicated clearly where and how the tragedy occurred.

Investigations into the incident will inevitably focus on two issues. Firstly, is there any concrete evidence to substantiate reports of the pepper spray use which prompted the stampede out of the disco? Secondly, was the disco dangerously overcrowded?

Ancona's chief public prosecutor, Monica Garulli, raised the second issue, telling reporters: "More than 1,500 tickets were sold for this concert while the disco's capacity is 870."

Ancona police chief Oreste Capocasa confirmed the dynamic of the incident as it was captured on the mobile phone footage, saying: "The emergency exit door opened up all right, but just outside that two iron railings (on the walkway) collapsed and people fell down on top of one another. We are trying to understand why."

The incident prompted memories of a similar tragedy in Turin's central Piazza San Carlo in June 2017 during the live screening of the Champions League final between Juventus and Real Madrid. On that occasion, a gang of pickpockets using pepper spray prompted a crowd stampede in which a woman was killed and 1,500 people injured.

A political rally in Rome, held by the League and featuring the Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini, controversially went ahead yesterday morning despite the tragic events in Corinaldo.

Sunday Independent

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