Three teenagers died and two others were still reported in critical condition late Thursday after being crushed in a stampede during a Halloween party in Madrid, which was taking place at the Madrid Arena venue in the Casa de Campo area of the Spanish capital.
Two of those who lost their lives died at the scene, while the third passed away on arrival at a hospital. The victims were aged between 18 and 20, were all female and were all Spanish.
The venue, which was evacuated very slowly by the authorities in order to avoid another incident, was playing host to an event dubbed the Thriller Music Park, an electronic music party with a Halloween theme.
The tragedy took place at around 4am after pandemonium broke out when “for unknown reasons a firecracker or flare” went off in the main hallway that led to main rink at the Madrid Arena, Deputy Mayor Miguel Ángel Villanueva told reporters.
“Some boy threw a flare and from there all hell broke loose,” recalled Sandra Ballesteros in a post written on the EL PAÍS Facebook page. “I found myself in the middle of one hallway with my legs up in the air. Thanks to some boy I was able to escape; I don’t know how he got me out.”
The organizers of the Halloween party, Diviertt SL, denied testimonies by party-goers that the arena was filled past its authorized capacity of 10,600. Diviertt said that 9,650 tickets were sold, adding all emergency exits were functioning properly.
“It is a shame that they sold double the number of tickets to enter a place just to see [electronic music DJ] Steve Aoki,” wrote @karxu on Twitter.
“I saw how they tried to revive one girl”
Madrid city officials and the police conducted an inspection just before the doors opened, the organizers said. Villanueva added that the company had all its permits in order, and 113 licensed security officers were on hand.
“I was in the middle of the crowd that was forming. It was unimaginable because you couldn’t go forward or try to go back; there were too many people pushing. It was like that for about a half hour,” recalled Ernesto Moreno Hernández on the EL PAÍS Facebook page. He estimates that that there were about 20,000 people at the event.
“I had never seen so many people,” said 19-year-old María Santos in a telephone interview. “I heard that one girl had died. I also saw how they carried one girl and took her to the bar to try to revive her.”
Around 50 members of the emergency medical services arrived at the scene after receiving a call at 4.05am that there were two people “unconscious and in cardiorespiratory arrest.”
Upon arrival, according to a spokesperson from the emergency services, there were “not three girls in cardiorespiratory arrest, but five.”
Two of the girls died on the scene while a third “was transported in an ambulance, where efforts were made to resuscitate her via cardiopulmonary resuscitation.” However, the young girl died on arrival at the Hospital Clínico.
The families of all the victims had been informed early in the day, while the names were released to the press later. One of the victims is Katia Esteban Casielles, who was born in Madrid in 1994 and lived in Daganzo.
Casielles was the daughter of a former Socialist councilor in Daganzo, Ángel María Esteban Sanz. She had turned 18 on October 4. The news of her death via Whatsapp shocked her classmates and friends. One friend, João, said she was very pleased with her studies and was a good student. Another friend, Alba Villar, described her as very sociable and “a lot of fun to be with.”
The second victim was identified as Cristina Arce de la Fuente, who was also born in 1994.
The families of both girls arrived at the Forensic Institute and left about two hours later without speaking to reporters. Cristina’s father, who was visibly affected, had to be helped by a friend.
Rocío Oña Pineda, the third victim, died at the Hospital Clínico. A group of her friends who were not at the party arrived at the institute late Thursday to wait for the body.
The two girls in critical condition were identified as María Teresa Alonso Vinateo, born in 1992, and Belén Langdon Real.
A couple, who could not find their own daughter, went to institute to see if she was one of the victims. “It is not my 21-year-old daughter, Clara,” the father told reporters.