“Say goodbye to my father”

Witnesses describe scenes of chaos at Halloween event

The court file on the Madrid Arena tragedy, to which EL PAÍS has had access, details the chaos that unfolded on November 1. Witness testimony, including those of several youngsters caught up 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.

“People were on the floor being crushed by each other”

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. The same thing happened with everybody we saw going in. Inside there were thousands of people with alcohol they had brought in.” At just after 3am when star act DJ Steve Aoki was starting his set, Aaron B. C. found himself in a passageway when the stampede began. “People were trampling all over each other. I couldn’t move, I was completely trapped. Someone broke down a door and because of the decompression I fell down with other people. People were on the floor being crushed by each other. My friends managed to drag me out.”

“Say goodbye to my father”

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.”

"All of us were underage”

Sara F. P., 17, met a group of 20 friends outside the venue, where hundreds of people were drinking. “All of us were underage, except two who are 18. A friend bought my ticket as under-18s were not allowed to. The security guards didn’t ask me or any of my friends for ID and didn’t search us. We went in at about 2am. At that time there weren’t many people inside. Around 3am, I noticed that people were pushing and we were swept toward a door, which was shut and nobody could open it. I shouted for people to stop pushing but nobody could hear me. With another two people I didn’t know I managed to escape through another door. A little earlier, at the same door, two girls who appeared to be unconscious were carried out.”

The victims’ friends

Víctor G., Miguel A., Claudia F. and Rocío G. were friends of three of the victims (Rocío Oña Pineda, Katia Esteban and Cristina Arce de la Fuente.) They gave a police statement after the tragedy and all said the same thing: “In the private parking lot outside the venue there were lots of cars with music blaring at full volume and alcohol being drunk. Neither the police nor the security guards did anything about it.”

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