The 21 victims of last week’s deadly crush at the Love Parade music festival in the German city of Duisburg were remembered in a public ceremony attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel, relatives and rescue workers on Saturday.
At the Church of our Saviour in the city, Ms. Merkel was joined by President Christian Wulff and members of the cabinet and regional government, as well as relatives of the dead and injured.
The Duisburg football stadium was opened to the public for a live broadcast of the service, with a large black cross being laid out on the pitch. As in the church, 21 candles were lit for the dead.
Contrary to expectations only around 2,000 people attended the public screening in the stadium.
On July 24 a build—up of thousands of people trying to enter the massive dance music event, which has been running intermittently in Germany since 1989, led to a crush outside an access tunnel. The 21 victims were trampled to death or asphyxiated.
“So contradictory is our life. In one moment the party is on, the next we are lying helpless on the ground,” Bishop Franz—Josef Overbeck said in the service.
Over 500 people are thought to have been injured by the crush, 25 of whom remain in hospital according to city police.
The disaster has unleashed a wave of public anger directed at city officials, police and organizers, who have traded accusations of blame in recent days, even as an official investigation is underway.
Wreaths from Wulff and Merkel, who interrupted her summer holiday to attend the service, were laid at the entrance to the tunnel. A sea of flowers and votive candles continues to grow at the site, as residents and relatives mark the spot where the victims, mostly in their 20s, died.
“Right in the middle of an exuberant celebration of life, death has shown all of us his terrible face,” Nikolaus Schneider, head of the regional protestant church said.
Rescue workers, who rushed to the scene seven days ago as the drama unfolded, lit the candles on the altar.
The Love Parade, which began as a semi—political event as the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and has since morphed into a private—sector venture with hundreds of thousands of participants each year, will not now be held again.
The chief organizer, Rainer Schaller, who runs a chain of discount fitness centres in Germany, has been accused of negligence by police in his execution of security plans.
Also Duisburg’s mayor, Adolf Sauerland, has come under pressure in recent days, sometimes from angry demonstrators outside the city hall, to resign.
The Premier of North Rhine—Westphalia state, Hannelore Kraft, vowed at the service on Saturday to push through the investigation to its conclusion.
“Who bears the guilt? Who is responsible? These questions must and will be answered,” she said.