'It Was a Night of Terror' in El Salvador

Hundreds are hurt at Salvadoran soccer match
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 21, 2023 5:20 PM CDT
Updated May 22, 2023 3:45 AM CDT
Fans Storm Gate in Fatal Crush
Fans take to the field of Cuscatlan stadium on Saturday night in San Salvador.   (AP Photo/Milton Flores)

Fans angry at being blocked from entering a Salvadoran soccer league match knocked down an entrance gate to the stadium, leading to a crush that left at least 12 people dead and hundreds injured, officials and witnesses said Sunday. The stampede took place late Saturday during a quarterfinals match between clubs Alianza and Fas at Monumental Stadium in Cuscatlan in southern San Salvador, the nation's capital, the AP reports. "The game was scheduled to start at 7:30pm but they closed the gate at 7pm and left us outside with our tickets in our hands," said Alianza fan José Ángel Penado. "People got angry. We asked them to let us in, but no. So they knocked the gate down."

A Civil Protection offical said about 500 people had been attended to and about 100 were taken to hospitals. At least two of the injured were in critical condition. "El Salvador is in mourning," said a statement from President Nayib Bukele's office. Play was suspended about 16 minutes in, when fans in the stands waving frantically began getting the attention of those on the field and carrying the injured out of a tunnel and down to the pitch. Local television transmitted live images of the aftermath of the stampede. Dozens made it onto the field, where they received medical treatment. "It was a night of terror. I never thought something like this would happen to me," said Alianza fan Tomas Renderos as he left a hospital after being treated. "Fortunately I only have a few bruises ... but not everyone had my luck."

The director of the national police said at a press conference that the large crowd's demand for Wi-Fi may have caused the stadium's system to malfunction, possibly leaving it unable to scan QR codes on tickets. That could have caused hundreds of people to be stranded at the southern gate, per the New York Times. In addition, officials said some fans might not have been able to enter because they'd been sold counterfeit tickets, per the BBC. Bukele said "everyone" will be investigated—teams, managers, stadium officials, the league, and the Salvadoran Soccer Federation.

(More stampede stories.)

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