A Korean Halloween Crowd Surge Has Left Student’s Dad “Haunted”

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Inside Edition has an interview with the father of a South Korean college student who was killed during the Halloween crowd surge in Seoul. 

Steve Blesi’s son Steven, a 20-year-old college student from Georgia, was visiting the country on a study abroad program. 

“I texted him, I guess it was like an hour or so before this tragedy happened, saying, ‘I know you’re out and about, but I love you. Be careful. Be safe.’ That was the last text between us. There was no response,”Steve Blesi.

Hours later, Steve learned his son was one of 155 people crushed to death in the disaster in the capital city’s nightclub district. He says he’s haunted by the manner of his son’s death.  

“It’s not an easy way to go. It’s a horrible way to go. It’s like drowning, but above water,”Steve said.

Anne Marie Gieske was the other American student killed in the tragedy. She was a student in the University of Kentucky. She was Brad Wenstrup’s niece, an Ohio congressman who called her. “a gift from God to our family.”

The streets were jammed with Halloween revelers dressed in their best, but only 137 police officers were able to keep the crowd under control. It happened in a narrow alley that was only 14 feet wide.

Dr. Sophia Akhiyat from Florida was on vacation in Seoul. She took video of the crush just before it happened and said she fled because it was too busy. She returned an hour later to find a terrifying scene.

“I just did the best I could with both giving CPR and directing it, but we realized that many of these people had actually died already,” Akhiyat said. 

Crowd safety expert Paul Wertheimer tells Inside Edition one of the most important things you can do if faced with a crowd surge is to get into a boxer’s stance with your feet apart and arms in front of your chest in order to make space between the person in front of you. In order to preserve oxygen, Wertheimer also recommends that you not shout or scream.

Crowd surge or crowd crush is a sudden and powerful movement that some liken to feeling the ocean waves or ocean tides. When too many people are packed tightly in a limited xpace, something causes the crowd’s to shift or move. This can happen in the form of someone falling or pushing from the rear of a crowd towards the front. When a crowd surge or crush occurs, people are pushing into each other from various points, making it hard to breathe because people need space for their lungs to expand.

It takes six minutes to enter compressive or restrictive asthma, which is the most likely cause of death in people who are crushed, according to G. Keith Still, a crowd safety expert, visiting professor of crowd science at University of Suffolk in England. The Washington Post

People can die standing up or falling in chaos. The pressure exerted by the bodies above can cause breathing difficulties and can lead to death. 

“As people struggle to get up, arms and legs get twisted together. Blood supply starts to be reduced to the brain,” Still told NPR last year after a crowd surge at Astroworld killed 10 people. 

Because it was the first Halloween celebration in South Korea in three years, the crowd was particularly crowded.

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