On Sunday, officials and witnesses said fans were angry at being denied entry to a Salvadoran soccer league match, despite having tickets at a small entrance gate to the stadium, causing an incident that killed 12 people and injured dozens.
Diego Armando, 14, said he went with this father to watch Saturday night’s quarter-final match between Alianza and Fez clubs at the Estadio Monumental in Cuscatlán in the south of San Salvador, the country’s capital.
He remembers being in the crowd when the tragedy occurred. “There were so many people there that the little gate couldn’t support them and it collapsed,” he told Channel 12 TV.
“I fell and my body shattered from my waist to my feet. Five people freed me and miraculously saved me. Two people died in front of me. The boy said: “I spoke to one of them and he didn’t move.
His father, Hector Rivas, said the stampede occurred because only two small gates were opened and the rest were locked.
“People started pushing and I couldn’t even breathe,” he said.
Play was suspended about 16 minutes into the match, when fans in the stands began waving frantically to attract the attention of those on the pitch and carry injured people from a tunnel onto the pitch.
Local television broadcast live images of the aftermath of the stampede, which appeared to mainly involve Alianza fans.
Dozens arrived at the square, where they received medical treatment.
Fans who escaped the crowd waved their shirts furiously in an effort to check out the barely moving figures lying on the grass.
“El Salvador is in mourning,” said a statement issued by the press office of El Salvadoran President Neb Bukele, and confirmed that at least 12 people had died.
The match was scheduled to start at 7:30pm, but they closed the gate at 7pm and “left us outside (the stadium) with our cards in our hands,” said Jose Angel Peinado, an Alianza fan.
Sections of the stadium are often reserved for fans of one team in order to avoid clashes with opponents, so these fans have to enter through the indicated gate.
“People got angry. We asked them to let us in, but no. “They knocked the gate down,” said Peñado.
Civil Protection Director Luis Amaya said about 500 people were cared for at the stadium and about 100 were taken to hospitals.
At least two of the injured who were taken to hospitals were reported to be in critical condition.
It was a night of horror. “I never thought something like this would happen to me,” said Thomas Rendros, a fan of sAlianza, as he left the hospital where he received medical care. “Luckily I only have a few bruises…but not everyone is so lucky.”
Pedro Hernandez, president of El Salvador’s top-flight football league, said the initial information he got was that the stampede occurred because fans stormed the stadium’s gate.
“It was a torrent of fans who swarmed the gate. Some were still under the metal in the tunnel. Others managed to reach the stands and then onto the field and were suffocated.”
National Civil Police Commissioner Mauricio Arreaza Chicas, at the scene of the tragedy, said that there would be a criminal investigation jointly with the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
“We will check ticket sales, entrances to the stadium, especially the southern area,” he said, as the gate was opened.
“I would simply like to express, of course, my condolences to all the people of El Salvador for this tragic incident,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said Sunday in a speech at the World Health Organization meeting in Geneva.