Promoter of fatal Halloween event blames security lapse
Miguel Ángel Flores tells judge that police failed to control drunken crowds outside Madrid Arena
The promoter of the Halloween party in Madrid that ended in the tragic deaths of four young women acknowledged in court on Tuesday that there could have been between 13,000 and 14,000 people in Madrid Arena that night, more than the venue's official capacity.
Miguel Ángel Flores, the owner of the company Diviertt that put on the Thriller Music Event, stated that 9,650 tickets were sold. He had been told by the public company Madrid Espacios y Congresos that the capacity of the Madrid Arena was "12,000 people, maximum." Flores said that 7,000 tickets had been sold via the internet, 800 through his public relations channels and 500 at ticket offices.
"We didn't sell any more tickets because we were aware that through invitations and public relations there had been requests for a further 1,000 tickets. These can be checked because each of them is a named invitation, and there is a list of them. Therefore, we can say approximately that 9,650 tickets were issued." Tax inspectors are attempting to establish just how many tickets were sold through value-added tax (VAT) paid on the stubs.
According to police reports, panic was sparked in the overcrowded venue when an unidentified individual let off a firework. The resulting pandemonium led to a crush in one of the corridors of the building.
Cristina Cifuentes, the government's delegate in Madrid, said Tuesday that the investigative judge, Eduardo López Palop, has ordered homicide detectives to look in to the incident.
A fifth girl remains in critical condition at a Madrid hospital.
Cifuentes also said that the National Police force does not have jurisdiction to control the crowds at Madrid Arena. Cifuentes said that she sent a document to Madrid Mayor Ana Botella clarifying the police's role that night, which was to check the organizer's permits to ensure they were in order and verify that the doors and entrances at the venue were in proper order.
"Say goodbye to my father"
J. A. HERNÁNDEZ, Madrid
The court report on the Madrid Arena tragedy, to which EL PAÍS has had access, details the chaos that unfolded on November 1. Witness testimony, including that of several youngsters caught up in the crush that claimed the lives of four young women, indicates that security at the event was far from diligent. The doormen did not ask for identification cards and no searches were carried out on partygoers to ensure that no flares or fireworks were carried into the venue. Alcohol was served freely at bars with no customers asked to prove they were over 18.
Aaron B. C. attended the event with his girlfriend, Carlota M. P. "We showed our tickets and the doorman let us through without so much as a second glance. He didn't search us either. [...] Inside there were thousands of people with alcohol they had brought in." At just after 3am, Aaron B. C. found himself in a passageway when the stampede began. "People were trampling all over each other. I couldn't move [but] my friends managed to drag me out."
Amor L. B., 17, gave a statement to police the day after the tragedy. She was on the main dance floor when the stampede started and tried to get out.
"I was directed to a corridor in front of the stage and suddenly there was a human avalanche, which started because some girls in front of me had fallen down. More people began to fall on top of them. Then the passage began to fill with smoke, apparently from a flare. When I was in the corridor Katia Esteban died in front of me. She said to me, 'Say goodbye to my father, tell him that I love him.' There were at least five people on top of her."
"The delegation sent the document to the Madrid mayor's office with the sole purpose of contributing to the inquiry that is being undertaken by an investigative committee. We want the committee to have a clear picture of what happened," she said.
Meanwhile, the opposition Socialists on the committee have demanded that both Cifuentes and Botella be called to testify for the panel.
The problem of overcrowding at the venue allegedly arose when three to four thousand youngsters without tickets, who had been drinking outside the venue, stormed the turnstiles.
Police sources have told Europa Press that they found batches of unsold tickets in an annex at the Madrid Arena complex last week.
Flores, who has officially been named as a target of the criminal investigation, placed the responsibility for external security at the door on the police. To back his claim that the majority of the gatecrashers were drunk before they gained access to the building, Flores stated that takings at the bars in the venue were 40,000 euros, when normally events on the scale of the Halloween party would rake in closer to 100,000 euros.
Three police officers who attended the event testified before an investigative judge that security at the Madrid Arena had been "nonexistent." They also stated that alcohol was being served outside the venue and that there were minors who appeared "drunk or drugged" milling around the area where a massive outside drinking party, known as a botellón, was taking place.
Flores told the court that when he heard about the young women's deaths, he "went to pieces and had to find a room in which to cry; I couldn't stand up."
The promoter went on to say that he and his team "meticulously" checked the security arrangements for the event. "I am the first person at a national level to cover events with a medical service, which comprises two doctors, two nurses, a mobile IVU and two ambulances," Flores told the police.
"From the first moment, the promotion company gave out false statements that the police were aware of what happened, but we could not deny these claims because we considered that it would be best done in a judicial setting," Cifuentes said.
Prosecutors have said that they would not ask for Flores to be held in preventive custody.
Judge Rodríguez Palop is expected to call Carlos Manzanares Rodríguez, owner of Kontrol 34, the firm that was responsible for access control of the entrances and inside the arena, to testify on Wednesday.
Manzanares Rodríguez has also been named by the judge as an official target of the criminal inquiry. The judge is also expected to call at a later date the lawyer for Seguriber, the security firm that was in charge of crowd control outside the arena.