An investigation into the deadly Halloween crush in South Korea has revealed that the first emergency call to the Itaewon police was made hours before the fatal incident.
At 06:34 p.m. local time, a person called South Korea’s 112 emergency number from Itaewon’s main street, saying that an alley next to the Hamilton hotel was becoming overcrowded and could be dangerous.
“That alley is really dangerous right now people going up and down, so people can’t come down, but people keep coming up, it’s gonna be crushed,” the caller said, adding: “I barely made it to get out but it’s too crowded. I think you should control it.”
Then, the officer who answered the call asked the caller if they had noticed that people were not following well.
“They get crushed and fall, and then there’s going to be a big accident?” asked the police officer. The caller replied “yes” and commented: “This is so chilling right now.”
According to local reports, at least nine more calls to the police were made in the next three hours on Saturday in Seoul, the South Korean capital. However, the police did not act as they should, local residents said.
The evidence suggests that the police officers made mistakes that could have been avoided.
Furthermore, both experts and witnesses said that local officials and police officers were not prepared to handle crowds, so they struggled to control them once they were there.
Official apologies also seem to suggest that the police could have responded better to the emergency.
On Tuesday, South Korea’s police chief acknowledged that officers could have done more to prevent the fatal crash, saying their response had been “inadequate.”
The deadly accident occurred as hundreds of thousands of people descended on Itaewon, a place known for its vibrant nightlife, to join in Halloween celebrations.
Although the neighborhood is usually busy, the number of people was still surprising. According to witnesses, the crowd in the street was so dense that it was almost impossible to move.
Meanwhile, police have launched an investigation into claims that the crowd was caused by some people yelling “push, push.”