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#Hot Issues of the Week l 2023-01-15
The police investigative team probing the Itaewon crowd crush has announced the results of its 74-day probe.
The team said in a briefing on Friday that compression asphyxia from crowd pressure was the leading cause of deaths among Halloween merrymakers in the October 29 tragedy, resulting in 159 fatalities and some 200 others wounded.
The investigators said that the number of revelers near Itaewon Station surged from 5 p.m. and the crowd became a torrent from around 9 p.m. Calamity ensued as people began falling on top of one another as they tried to make their way down a steep and narrow alleyway near the station from around 10:15 p.m.
By that time, the crowd density was six to ten people per square meter and the average weight pressing down on a person was about 224 to 560 kilograms.
The team added that the disaster compounded due to overlapping errors by related agencies that should have predicted and responded to safety accidents.
It booked 28 figures and handed 23 of them to the prosecution. The team most notably arrested six people, including former Yongsan Police Station chief Lee Im-jae and Yongsan District Office head Park Hee-young.
However, it concluded that interior and safety minister Lee Sang-min, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon and National Police Agency Commissioner General Yoon Hee-keun were not liable for the tragedy, saying they had no substantial duty related to the risk of a crowd surge in a specific area.
The police team will disband in stages from Friday as the prosecution takes over.