At least 12 dead, dozens injured in stampede at soccer game in El Salvador


Fans were furious at being denied entry to a Salvadoran football league match even though tickets had destroyed a small entrance gate to the stadium, leading to a scrum that left 12 people dead and dozens injured, officials and witnesses said on Sunday .

Diego Armando, 14, said he went with this father to watch Saturday night’s quarter-final match between clubs Alianza and Fas at the Monumental Stadium in Cuscatlan, south of San Salvador, the country’s capital.

He recalled being in the crowd when the tragedy happened. “There were so many people that the little gate couldn’t support them and it fell down,” he told Channel 12 television.

“I fell and my body was crushed from waist to foot. Five people pulled me free and miraculously saved me. Two people died before me. I spoke to one and he didn’t move,” the boy said.

His father, Hectór Rivas, said the clash occurred because only two small gates were open and the rest were closed.

Stampede at soccer match in El Salvador
Supporters are helped by others after a stampede during a soccer match between Alianza and FAS at Cuscatlan stadium in San Salvador May 20, 2023.

MILTON FLORES/AFP via Getty Images

“People started crowding and I couldn’t even breathe,” he said.

The game was halted about 16 minutes into the game when fans in the stands waved frantically and began to draw the crowd’s attention and carry the injured out of a tunnel onto the pitch.

Local television broadcast live footage of the aftermath of the onslaught, which appeared to primarily involve Alianza fans. Dozens made it onto the field where they received medical treatment. Fans who escaped the crush waved their T-shirts angrily and tried to watch the people lying on the grass, barely moving.

“El Salvador is mourning,” said a statement from Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele’s press office, which confirmed that at least 12 people had died.

Alianza fan José Ángel Penado said the game should have started at 19:30 but they closed the gate at 19:00 and “left us outside (at the stadium) with our tickets in hand”.

To avoid clashes with rivals, areas of the stadium are often reserved for one team’s fans, requiring those fans to enter through the designated gate.

“People got angry. We asked them to let us in but no. So they ripped the gate down,” Penado said.

Civil protection director Luis Amaya said about 500 people were treated at the stadium and about 100 were taken to hospitals. At least two of the injured who were transported to hospital were reportedly in critical condition.

“It was a night of terror. I never thought something like this would happen to me,” said sAlianza fan Tomas Renderos as he exited a hospital where he received medical attention. “Luckily, I only have a few bruises … but not all of them have had my luck.”

Pedro Hernández, president of El Salvador’s Premier Football League, said the preliminary information he has is that the rush happened because fans pushed into the stadium through a gate.

“It was an avalanche of fans overrunning the goal. Some were still under the metal in the tunnel. Others made it to the stands and then onto the pitch and were suffocated,” an unidentified volunteer with first-aid group Rescue Commandos told journalists.

National Civil Police Commissioner Mauricio Arriza Chicas said at the scene of the tragedy that a criminal investigation was being launched in cooperation with the Attorney General’s Office.

“We will examine ticket sales, access to the stadium, but especially the southern area,” he said, where the gate was pushed open.

Speaking at a World Health Organization meeting in Geneva on Sunday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said: “Obviously, I just want to offer my condolences to all the people of El Salvador for this tragic incident.”

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