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South Korea claims manslaughter over fatal Halloween defeat

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Police in South Korea are seeking criminal charges, including manslaughter and negligence, against 23 officials, about half of whom are law enforcement officers, over a lack of safety measures they say were responsible for a mob that killed nearly 160 people.

Although a crowd of more than 100,000 is expected over the weekend, the Seoul police assigned 137 officers to the nightlife district of the capital, Itaewon, on the day of the stampede. These officers focused on monitoring drug use and violent crime, which experts say left few resources for pedestrian safety.

Son Ji Han, who headed the National Police Agency’s special investigation into the incident, said Friday that his team will now send the case to prosecutors. Among those recommended for indictment are Park Hee-young, the mayor of Seoul’s Yongsan District, and former district police chief Lee Im-jae – two of the six arrested.

Lee was also accused of falsifying a police report to conceal his late arrival at the scene. Two other police officials were arrested on suspicion of attempting to destroy computer files and other possible evidence related to the incident.

The results of the 74-day police investigation made public by Son mostly confirmed what was already evident – that police and government officials in Yongsan failed to use meaningful crowd control measures for the expected numbers of Halloween revelers and essentially ignored pedestrian calls made to hotlines. to the police. He warned of a swelled crowd hours before the surge turned deadly on Oct. 28.

Officials also erred in their response once people started toppling and crushing them in a narrow dead-end alley with partygoers near the Hamilton Hotel around 10 p.m., and failed to effectively control the scene and allow rescue workers to reach the injured in time, said Sun.

Sun said at a press conference in Seoul.

man-made disaster

Sun said his team has interviewed nearly 540 people and collected 14,000 pieces of evidence from central and municipal government offices and transportation authorities. He said police investigators studied more than 180 video files recorded by security cameras or taken by journalists and pedestrians and jointly inspected the venue with forensic experts to analyze the density of the crowd.

Police said the crowd that had packed into the corridor-like corridor between the hotel and a thick row of storefronts turned into an unstoppable wave around 9 p.m., as people were unable to dictate their movements once they were swept through. At about 10:15 p.m., people were unable to dictate their movements. They began to fall and fall on each other like dominoes, resulting in a tragedy that left 158 ​​people dead and 196 injured.

Analysis of security camera footage and simulations by the National Forensic Service indicates that the crowd density in the alley was about eight people per square meter (yard) at about 10:15 p.m., and the density has grown to eight to nine people occupying the same unit of space as 10:20 p.m. and about 9-11 people until 10:25 p.m., police said.

Paramedics struggled to get to the scene because the area was so overcrowded. Those who arrived were so overwhelmed by the number of people lying motionless on the ground that they asked the walkers to help them administer CPR. Police said most of the deaths were caused by suffocation or brain damage.

It is unclear whether the findings of the police investigation will be enough to quell public anger and demand government accountability as the country continues to deal with its worst disaster in nearly a decade.

Opposition lawmakers and some relatives of the victims have called for investigations of high-profile figures, such as Home and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min and National Police General Agency Commissioner Yoon Hee-kyun, who have faced calls to resign.

However, Son said the special investigation team will close its investigations into the Ministry of Interior and Safety, the National Police Agency, and the Seoul city government, saying it is difficult to prove their direct responsibility.

Some experts have called the Itaewon stampede a “man-made disaster” that could have been prevented with fairly simple steps, such as hiring more police and public workers to monitor choke points, mandating one-way lanes and blocking narrow lanes or temporarily closing Itaewon. A subway station to prevent large numbers of people from moving in the same direction.

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