South Korean police are blaming the deadly Halloween crush for lack of preparation and poor response

South Korean police on Friday said a lack of preparation and an inadequate response were the main causes of last year’s deadly Halloween crush in Seoul, closing a months-long investigation into the tragedy that killed 159 people.

Annual celebrations in popular Itaewon nightlife district turned deadly on October 29 after tens of thousands of young revelers crowded narrow streets to celebrate the first COVID-free curb Halloween in three years.

Authorities, including police, failed to take safety measures even though the dense crowd made an accident likely, and failed to take appropriate steps after calls for rescue came in, said Je-han, who led the investigation.

“The misjudgment of the situation, the delay in sharing information and the lack of cooperation between the authorities involved resulted in great losses,” Sohn told reporters.

The investigative team has referred 23 people, including the head of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, to prosecutors.

The bereaved and opposition lawmakers have criticized the police investigation for failing to hold top officials accountable.

“We have so many unanswered questions,” Lee Jong-chul, head of a group representing the bereaved, told reporters upon arriving at the Seoul Procuratorate. “We came here to take a victim’s testimony in anticipation of a better, expanded investigation.”

© Thomson Reuters 2023.

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