No security present at concert that killed dozens, police find
Police said yesterday in an interim probe report that there was not a single security officer dispatched to the outdoor K-pop festival at Pangyo Techno Valley in Gyeonggi, which killed 16 concertgoers and injured 11 on Friday evening after a ventilation graft collapsed.
The victims, who plummeted to their deaths while watching the free concert co-hosted by Gyeonggi province, included a married couple, who leave behind three children, and promising young IT minds working at the Pangyo complex, a bustling center for technology and biotech.
They were among the more than a dozen who plummeted to their deaths while watching a free concert co-hosted by the province of Gyeonggi.
The tragedy is believed to be the result of yet another case of faulty security regulations and management.
The Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency sent 60 officials yesterday morning to search and seize possible evidence from 10 offices of the concert organizers, which include the online economic news website Edaily, a subsidiary of Edaily TV, and the Gyeonggi Institute of Science and Technology Promotion (Gstep).
The police’s interim report on an investigation into the cause of the accident revealed a chilling breach in safety measures, and that not a single person in charge of safety was present at the concert, due in part to miscommunication and carelessness.
According to the police report disclosed in a briefing yesterday, 38 people had been assigned to run the event, though none testified to have been assigned as a security guard. Assignments included 11 stage managers and 16 promoters.
The group comprised 11 members from the concert’s main organizer, Edaily; 16 from Gstep, the concert’s host; and 11 from the event-planning company Planbox. In addition, none had been educated on safety protocol.
Though Gstep designated four people in their event plan outlines as safety officials for the concert, the individuals told police that they “had not been notified” of such an assignment.
Police officials said that concert organizers initially claimed that 40 people had been assigned for event security two days before the festival.
The police further summoned 20 officials in charge of concert planning, managers of the facility from Pangyo Technology Valley and officials from other co-hosts of the event, the Gyeonggi Provincial Government and the Seongnam Metropolitan Government, for questioning yesterday.
The first Pangyo Techno Valley Festival was a cultural event held for residents and workers in the budding industrial complex in the city of Seongnam.
The free concert attracted approximately 700 people - though 400 seats were initially prepared - who wanted to see performances by musical acts such as 4Minute and T-ara.
During the performances, a group of around 30 concertgoers climbed atop the elevated grate for a better view of the stage before the shaft gave way from their weight, sending the group plummeting down over 18 meters (about 60 feet) into an underground parking area at 5:53 p.m.
At that time, popular girl group 4Minute, the first performers of the night, was on stage and continued to perform, unaware of the accident.
In addition to the 16 who were killed, there were 11 other casualties, some of whom were seriously injured. Many of the casualties were commuters who stopped to watch the concert after leaving work, ranging in their 20s to 40s.
One of the concert planners, an official from the Gyeonggi Institute of Science and Technology Promotion only identified by his surnamed Oh, who was in charge of concert security, was found dead on Saturday morning in an apparent suicide about three hours after he was questioned by police.
The 37-year-old father of two left a haunting message on Twitter at 7:01 a.m., 15 minutes before his body was found on a Seongnam street.
“I have done my best to live diligently, but something I could never have imagined has occurred. I am sorry for my colleagues and for those who died from the accident. My heart is apologetic. I hope you know my sincerity.”
He went on to apologize to his parents. To his children, he wrote, “Daddy loves you very much. I miss you.” And to his wife, he said, “I am really sorry and leave the children to you.”
Police said yesterday that Oh had written up the safety plans, assigning four people for security the day before the concert.
But why Oh, who is not the main organizer of the event but a junior official affiliated with Gstep, wrote up the safety plan, has not yet been confirmed, police added.
Kwak Jae-sun, the chairman of online news site Edaily, apologized yesterday for the accident and told reporters, “If there are any areas determined that Edaily, as the concert organizer, has to take responsibility for, it will be taken.”
He made the statement following a meeting at Bundang District Office in Seongnam with Gyeonggi Gov. Nam Kyung-pil and Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung to discuss measures to handle the aftermath of the accident.
Kwak further said he will “entrust all authority for compensation and measures to recuperate from the accident” to the new department for support of the Pangyo accident under the Bundang District Office.
The Pangyo accident control and support department promised 30 million won for medical bills and funerals for the victims and their families.
Kwak further said that he would use his scholarship foundation to fund the educations of the children of the victims through college to help the bereaved relatives cope.
The police over the weekend identified the dead, including a married couple, 46-year-old women Kwon Bok-nyeo and her 47-year-old husband Jeong Yeon-tae, who leave behind three children, the youngest only in elementary school.
“Not too long ago, it was my mother’s birthday, but the two could not spend time together, so as a date, they went to the concert together,” the couple’s 20-year-old son, who is slated to enlist in the military, told media.
The funeral dates for most of the victims have been decided, according to Gyeonggi officials. The first funeral service was held yesterday for 29-year-old Hong Seok-beom, a software game programmer who worked at an IT company in the neighborhood.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]