Five arrested after deadly stampede at El Salvador stadium

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele made a promise after a deadly stampede at a stadium on May 20 that killed 12 people: no one “will go unpunished”. The president of the club that organized the match and two other leaders were arrested on Thursday, as were two officials of the sports sector.

The justice announced the arrest of the president of Alianza FC of San Salvador Pedro Hernández, the club’s security chief Edwin Abarca Ventura, its financial director Zoila Cordova as well as the general manager of the company Edesa, which operates the Cuscatlán stadium Reynaldo Avelar. Contreras and the employee responsible for the keys to the facility, Samuel García Montano.

According to the general prosecutor’s office, the organizers “after exhausting the available entries for the match, decided to illegally sell tickets issued for previous matches”.

Furthermore, the stadium’s gates did not have sufficient capacity to allow the entry of so many spectators, and “did not open with sufficient advance to allow an orderly and safe arrival”, added the floor on Twitter.

– Negligence and greed –

“Negligence and greed in the organisation, coupled with an overbooking, led to a human avalanche, leading to loss of life, injuries and endangering the safety of the participants”, he lamented.

A man injured in a stampede at a stadium in El Salvador is carried by emergency services May 20, 2023 (AFP/Archive – Milton Flores)

Twelve people died in the 35,000-seat stadium, the largest in Central America. More than 500 others had to seek medical treatment.

Tragedy struck when retreating supporters broke down a gate providing access to the southern area of ​​the enclosure, which was the most popular.

President Bukele immediately announced on Twitter that the investigation would “concern everyone: the team, the management, the state, the ticket office, the league, the federation, etc.” “Whoever the culprits are, they will not be spared,” he warned.

– Up to 12 years in prison –

Prosecutors said police searched the premises of Alianza, Edessa and Kaskatlan stadiums on Thursday in search of “accounting financial documents” and tickets used on the day of the tragedy.

Luis Alonso Amaya, director of civil protection services, said overselling tickets on the black market is a common practice in the country, and not only for this match.

The funeral of a victim of the deadly stampede at a stadium in San Salvador, May 22, 2023 (AFP - MARVIN RECINOS)
The funeral of a victim of the deadly stampede at a stadium in San Salvador, May 22, 2023 (AFP – MARVIN RECINOS)

Those arrested should be brought to justice in the coming days. He faces 12 years in prison.

The Salvadoran Football Federation (Facefoot) and clubs decided on Wednesday to stop the final tournament of the national championship, angering the players. The federation called for “the need to guarantee safety in playgrounds”.

Alianza Club was held responsible for the tragedy by Festfoot and sentenced to one year of matches behind closed doors. He was also declared man of the match after 15 minutes of play had been interrupted at the time of the tragedy, and was fined $30,000 by the federation.

For the federation, Alianza “had not adopted measures intended to prevent the incident” or “had acted negligently”.

In particular, she considered that access controls to the stadium were “manifestly deficient”.

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