Day in court for first Love Parade tragedy case

July 2015 marked five years since one of the worst tragedies in modern German history. But this week, those affected by the 2010 Duisburg Love Parade disaster will at last see the case come to court.

Day in court for first Love Parade tragedy case
Crosses adorn the stairs which festival-goers fought to reach to escape the crush. Photo: DPA

The first civil case against event organizers behind the fateful Duisburg Love Parade will begin on Tuesday – five years after the beloved music fest turned into a deadly disaster.

A 53-year-old firefighter is suing the former Love Parade event company Lopavent, its boss and the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in civil court for damages amounting to €90,000 for pain and suffering caused by the event.

This will be the first civil trial since the tragedy on July 24th 2010 left 21 people suffocated or crushed to death by crowds at the electronic dance music fest.

SEE ALSO: July 24th 2010: The day the music stopped

The annual festival, which had grown rapidly since forming in Berlin in 1989, took place inside an abandoned freight station that was only accessible via a single ramp.

The venue became a death trap as thousands squeezed onto the entrance ramp, overcrowding the space and causing people to panic as they tried to escape.

Fifteen people suffocated at the scene, while a further six died later from injuries sustained in the crowd. More than 500 festival-goers were injured.

The firefighter bringing the lawsuit, identified by Bild tabloid as Ralf S., said during the crush, he worked to try and save victims – and the experience proved impossible to come to terms with. Traumatized, the firefighter was forced to give up his job.

“Since July 24th 2010, my world has fallen apart,” he told Bild.

Festival-goers fought to escape the crush. Photo: DPA

Several other civil action cases are also still pending and are set to begin in the fall.

Pointing fingers

Immediately after the tragedy, event planners and city officials accused one another of being at fault for the deaths.

Organizer Rainer Schaller blamed the police, claiming that mistakes in crowd control had ultimately led to the disaster.

But the state interior minister rejected this claim, laying the blame squarely at Schaller and his company Lopavent's door.

Duisburg Mayor Adolf Sauerland also came under fire from protesters who claimed he had known that security provisions were sub-standard, but had allowed the event to go ahead anyway. Hundreds rallied at the city hall demanding his resignation.

In February 2014, charges were filed against six Duisburg public servants and four Lopavent employees, including involuntary manslaughter and bodily injury due to negligence. This criminal case is still ongoing and has not yet been brought to trial. 

Both Schaller and Sauerland were exonerated. Prosecutors stated that both men were “entitled to be confident that the persons who were responsible for the planning and approval would duly check the project on the basis of their expertise”.


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Germany’s Fusion Festival may be cancelled due to police dispute

Germany’s iconic Fusion Festival, which has attracted people from across the world for over two decades, is in danger of being cancelled in 2019. The reason? A dispute between the organizers and police.

Germany’s Fusion Festival may be cancelled due to police dispute
Archive photo shows a Fusion Festival stage. Photo: DPA

The row between Kulturkosmos, organizers of the festival, and police is threatening to cancel the festival for the very first time. 

“The police want to stop Fusion Festival” reads the headline on the Kulturkosmos website. The owners have started a petition, which had upwards of 56,000 signatures early on Monday evening. 

The police have called for a police presence in the centre of the festival, saying that they are dissatisfied with the organizers’ security systems and want to ensure the safety of festival attendees. 

Aside from a centrally-located temporary station, police have sought permission to have plain-clothed officers walk around the five-day festival. 

The organizers have hit back, arguing that the requests are excessive and that they are being punished for an abstract threat and pointing out that there has been only one incident of violence in the festival’s history.

They argue that allowing unmarked officers to patrol the festival would be contrary to its ethos of freedom of artistic expression. 

District Administrator Heiko Kärger (CDU) told DPA that the police’s change in policy is motivated by legitimate security concerns. 

“The security concerns for such a major event must be met,” he said. “Nobody wants further problems, such as at the Love Parade disaster in 2010.”

Besides a break in 2017, the Festival – which takes place at an abandoned Soviet military base in Lärz, Mecklenburg West-Pomerania – has run annually every year since 1997. 

From humble beginnings, Fusion Festival has grown in size and reputation over the years. 

The festival averages 70,000 attendees from all across Germany and the world. For comparison, the United States’ Burning Man Festival has only once hit that number.