At least twelve people were killed and dozens more injured when stampeding soccer fans pushed through one of the access gates at a quarterfinal match in the Salvadoran league Saturday.
“El Salvador is in mourning,” said a statement from the press office of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, which confirmed that at least 12 people were dead at the match between clubs Alianza and FAS at Monumental stadium in Cuscatlan, which is about 25 miles (41 kilometers) northeast of the capital.
Carlos Fuentes, spokesman for the first aid group Rescue Commandos, also confirmed the deaths.
“We can confirm nine dead — seven men and two women — and we attended to more than 500 people, and more than 100 were transported to hospitals, some of them were serious,” Fuentes said.
Play was suspended about 16 minutes into the match, 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 by Alianza fans. Dozens made it onto the field where they received medical treatment. Fans who escaped the crush stood on the field furiously waving shirts attempting to review people lying on the grass barely moving.
Pedro Hernández, president of El Salvador soccer’s first division, said the preliminary information he had was that the stampede occurred because fans managed to push through a gate into the stadium.
“It was an avalanche of fans who overran the gate. Some were still under the metal in the tunnel. Others managed to make it to the stands and then to the field and were smothered,” an unidentified volunteer with the Rescue Commandos first aid group told journalists.
National Civil Police Commissioner Mauricio Arriza Chicas, at the scene of the tragedy, said there would be a criminal investigation in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Office.
“We are going to investigate from the ticket sales, the entries into the stadium, but especially the southern zone,” where, he said, the gate was pushed open.
The Salvadoran Soccer Federation said in a statement that it regretted what had happened and voiced support for the victims’ families.
MARCOS ALEMÁN reported from SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador.