Crowd Disasters as Systemic Failures: Analysis of the Love Parade Disaster

In a hot summer of July 24th, 2010, a crowd disaster took place in the annual Love Parade event in the Duisburg City of Germany. The disaster had killed 21 people and left 500 people injured. Authors purpose of this paper is not just to describe about the incident, how it took place instead authors have made explicit analytical description about its safety and prearrangement for possible disasters, for all event organizers. Authors have made study of the Love Parade disaster on the base of different eyewitnesses, close circuit camera records, and YouTube video footages.

The Love Parade was first organized in 1989 in Berlin and continued till 2003 in same city. It was interrupted till 2007 in reason of permit by city, lack of budget and security concerns. In 2007 The Love Parade restarted in Essen City gathering 1.2 million visitors. In 2008 it was organized in Dortmund city. In 2009 again, it was cancelled in security concern. Thus, the love parade came up to Duisburg City in 2010, which turned as unforgettable sorrow and pain.

There are couples of factors that led the love parade festivals to horrible and panic ending. One most important factor was the space of the festival. In fact, the event space was supposed to choose on the base of the expected visitors not on the base of the capacity of space. However, the space chosen was squeezed in 100,000 square meters, between train track on the east and freeway on the west, which was too small for the expected visitors of 1.4 million. On the top of that, the geographic structure of the space compounded to the reason of disaster. The entrance ramp to the event location and exit ramp were next to each other making the route U-turn. When a sea of human with giant floats entering to the event location and exiting, made intersect in a narrow ramp, the crowd became uncontrollable and people ran over stepping on each other and piled up with injured and dead bodies.

One of the notable, additional reason for this disaster was the failure to start the event on time. The organizer started the event with one-hour delay. However, people were already gathered in the open area of the event. When entrance was opened, the inflow interrupted the line and became uncontrollable. This situation accumulated the crowd unrest and contributed to the disaster.

Additionally, organizers failed to predict the future possible incidents. The possible nature and behavior of the event could not be observed in advance. Even, the communication gap between the member of organizers and hearing interruption in phone calls were also the cause to push the event into tragic ending. Because of the crowd, people could not get the right information about what is happening in another corner or another side of the crowd. False rumor made people pandemonium and ran over pushing and stepping and on each other.

Another important factor that caused to disaster is the generation of a collective force from the crowd. When a crowd goes beyond control, one force gets multiplied into multiple forces. In the love parade disaster, this physical idea worked, and the crowd became unrest.

Right after the disaster, the staircase and the crowd movement were indicated as the reason for the incident. However, this study shows that the staircase was just a cause not the effect to contribute the disaster. The crucial reasons are the existence of narrow ramp, organizational failure to predict the possible dark side of the event, and accumulation of unrest force by pushing each other in the crowd.

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