The following are a collection of posts for German news outlets on the the Love Parade Trial. We are using Google Translate to convert to English, but including the original media link.
We will endeavour to update this as often as possible.
Due to other commitments we have not been able to follow the trial as closely as we would like, due to this, we are providing translations from blog.wdr.de a dedicated to the daily process of the trial.
Day 170: Relax a bit
It is the last day of the trial this year and it begins with the questioning of yesterday’s witness. Judge Plein has completed his questioning, but the public prosecutor, co-plaintiff, defense and the appraiser have questions for the fireman. For example, whether there were any concerns in the safety working group regarding the access to the site? No, it didn’t exist. Or whether the man who was in charge of the fire service was put under pressure from above? No, the colleague trusted the planning and was sure that the event would go well.
Change of witness
After an hour and a half, the 54-year-old is released and the next witness is called in. He is the head of the Essen branch of a large security company in the Ruhr area and he had negotiated with Lopavent about the use of folders in the Love Parade. No strangers spoke to each other, the company and the Lopavent organization team had already worked together on other events, such as the opening event of the Ruhr 2010 at Zollverein .
“We do not open doors”
The 48-year-old had nothing to do with the actual assignment, the Duisburg branch was supposed to do this, but probably with the contract. On July 5, 2010, there was an on-site visit to the former freight yard site and a subsequent discussion at the Lopavent headquarters in Duisburg, the witness reports. It was clear that his company would never take over the separation systems at the tunnel entrances. His people were fundamentally not trained for such a task, and he also felt that the access regulations – two groups of people flock to one another and then turn at a 90-degree angle onto a ramp that is narrower than the tunnel – were too dangerous expressed.
We all had a busy year
It is this part of the statement that co-plaint and defense bite into. Who said what at which point in time or not, is of immense importance. Of course, because otherwise the wording leaves plenty of room for interpretation and speculation. For example, that the defendants may have been aware of the danger posed by this access regime and still left it at that. Ultimately, however, this cannot be read from the testimony. After just under two hours, this witness is also released and Judge Plein asks: “Is there anything else this year?” That is not the case and so he says goodbye to us for the Christmas break: “Take a little rest, we all had a busy year.”
Day 169: The soul cracks
Another fireman on the witness stand. The electrical engineer looks nervous at first. However, his free description of events is eloquent and rather short. On July 24, 2010, the Duisburg resident was one of the two heads of the fire brigade staff, who was in charge of setting up a communication network and coordinating the press work. For example, he got hold of the fire department’s institutein Münster radio equipment. At many preparatory rounds of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Sicherheit he was a rather silent listener. In his subsequent questioning, Judge Plein wanted to know whether anyone in the circle had expressed concerns that the Love Parade could go wrong. From time to time, one or the other might have slipped out, you couldn’t do that, but he would rather see it as an expression of minor frustrations. “But that someone had serious doubts? I don’t remember that. ”
“No stagnation in the tunnel”
On the day of the Love Parade, he vehemently objected to temporarily blocking the access ramp in order to put up the overturned fences. “I was totally against it.” The motto was always given: no stagnation in the tunnel. As the witness describes, this motto was the calming pill for all safety concerns in advance. Nobody noticed at the time that this motto should have been supplemented by the half-sentence ‘and not on the ramp’. Because there were no emergency exits in the tunnel or on the ramp. The visitors could not go anywhere on a stretch of around 400 meters.
Not a topic that the fire department likes to talk about
As expected, we don’t learn much new today. We also knew that the witnesses from the ranks of the fire brigade met in advance for an exchange – in terms of content, nothing was said to have been discussed, only what was expected of a witness. In connection with this, the 54-year-old explains that the theme of the Love Parade is not something people like to talk about among colleagues. As a fireman, you go on a mission to limit damage, which was not successful in this case. That gave him a “soul snack” personally. Judge Plein is obviously surprised: If it was so uncomfortable to talk about the 2010 Love Parade, why was the witness a guest at the WDR talk show in Cologne ?
The witness then said that he had written a book about his missions – “and the Love Parade was a chapter there”.
His questioning will continue tomorrow.
Day 168: Two Firefighters
At the end of the day I have nine Word pages of notes, but little to report. We start with the witness who testified the week before last, on day 166 . It is the 52-year-old fireman who was responsible for drawing the so-called master plan at the Loveparade and keeping it up to date – i.e. the plan according to which the site was to be prepared or built. Judge Plein was finished with his questioning, today it’s the public prosecutor’s office, co-litigation and defense. In my opinion, we don’t learn a lot of new things. Until the appraiser asks his questions.
Three master plans
He asks to compare three different versions of the master plan. They only differ in nuances, but they are interesting little things. On the version dated July 11, 2010, the access ramp is drawn relatively narrow, the planned route for the music trucks runs closely past the buildings of the former freight station. In version 2, two days later, the ramp is drawn much wider, the course of the truck is farther away from the buildings and thus shortens the access from the ramp to the actual parade area. A third – actually the final – plan of July 20 shows a picture similar to the first version. The expert’s questions show, however, that the terrain and truck route are not after the third and final, but were set up after the second version. This means that the decisions of the emergency services were based on a plan that did not reflect reality at this crucial point.
One event, many detailed questions
The second witness of the day is also a fireman. The 46-year-old was deputy head of operations tactics at the Loveparade, the team that coordinated the emergency services after reports of deaths. In principle, his questioning is about why the police tried to pull chains on the access ramp and in the two ends of the tunnel and why the entrance gates were temporarily closed and then opened again. The witness says that the fence was overturned and that the police wanted to put it up again. But he can only remember details very imprecisely. However, he is repeatedly asked for details, both by the judge as well as by co-litigation and defense. Since he cannot answer the questions, his tone becomes increasingly annoyed and sharp. Finally, a defense lawyer tries to calm him down: “You don’t have to get upset. I’m just asking her. ”
After about three hours of questioning, the witness is released.
Day 167: The press officer who threw the job
Today he is 42 years old, a PR consultant, still lives in Berlin, wearing a gray suit and fashionable horn-rimmed glasses.
The dual role: press spokesman for McFit and Lopavent
In 2007, the witness switched from a PR agency to McFit, the fitness chain Rainer Schallers. In 2007 the first Love Parade took place outside of Berlin. The witness was also responsible for this as a press spokesman, he says. This is how he witnessed all the Love Parades in the Ruhr Area: The Love Parade with 1.2 million visitors in Essen, with 1.6 million visitors in Dortmund and finally the one with 21 dead and hundreds injured in Duisburg. There are inconsistencies in the number of visitors in Duisburg.
One million people were officially expected and one million were, at least that was announced by Mayor Adolf Sauerland at the time. Had the accident not happened, the public might never have had reason to doubt that number. Rainer Schaller called the one million visitor legend a “media number” , the witness calls it the “communicative number”. A number that sounds good and, according to Rainer Schaller, was published for marketing purposes. “I wasn’t involved in exaggerating the numbers. I picked it up and distributed it, ”says the former press spokesman.
The art of saying nothing
Whether consciously or unconsciously, the PR consultant seems to be pursuing a certain communication strategy. He usually answers questions with a reflection. A simple example:
Richter: “Do you remember attending a big meeting in Duisburg on October 2nd, 2009? What can you tell us about it? ”
Witness: “I was at a meeting in Duisburg. It was a big round with many involved. ” No more is coming. As the questions become more specific, the witness often says: “I don’t remember that anymore. That was ten years ago. ”
The witness’s wording is remarkable. They are often imprecise and passive. Examples: “Corresponding people made a decision at some point.”, “There was certainly discussion among the discussants. But that was diffuse. ”
Diffuse is a nice word, I think. It also describes the impression that the witness leaves on me today.
In the end
The man quit his job a few days after the Loveparade disaster. He no longer wanted to be a press officer. His boss let him go without hesitation. After that, he was no longer in contact with his former colleagues. This statement is questioned by various SMS. But the 42-year-old cannot remember that either.
The process day comes to an end and I get wrinkles from the many frowns. I have to remember that the witness said that he had prepared for the process by reading the WDR blog, among other things. Interesting who reads here …
Day 166: The map maker from the fire department
The witness is a 52-year-old fireman. His task was to draw the so-called master plan for the Love Parade. All information regarding the event site, the access and departure routes should be reported to him and recorded on a map, the master plan.
It is a more factual testimony. The 52-year-old says that he was involved in the planning of the Love Parade from February 2010. He was responsible for informing the fire and medical services. Information from all departments, such as the regulatory office or the Lopavent, had been forwarded to him. For example, he then entered the routes to the site in the plan. It was also in the interest of the fire brigade that the visitors were not led directly from the train station to the Loveparade site, but were only guided around it. This means that the event site is easily accessible from various sides, even for the rescue workers. The danger potential of the tunnel was apparently ignored. The witness cannot do much to clarify the scene of the accident, the ramp. Even when it comes to concrete discussions and appointments, his statements remain vague. Although he was present on some important security appointments, he cannot remember any specific agreements today. He had an interesting role in this.
A million visitors
In his role, the witness formed an interface between the fire brigade management and the security forces who were deployed. He gathered information and passed it on. At a briefing by rescue workers, he is said to have presented the number of one million visitors. This is evidenced by a document of evidence. Today he distances himself from this number. As we heard several times in the process, it was invented. That should have been known to those who were involved in the planning. The witness too.
But why the wrong number was then communicated to the rescue workers, the presiding judge wants to know. A valid question. After all, it is not irrelevant whether I plan rescue workers for one million people or for 300,000 people. The judge continues to ask: “Why was it in there at all? If everyone knew that it was just a media number? ” The witness seems insecure on this question and occasionally crosses his arms. He said he definitely put the number in perspective when presenting it. Besides, it would have been worse if he had said something different than what was communicated to the outside world.
That is contradictory to me. Did the fire brigade and medical services assume excessive and incorrect visitor numbers? And what was the result? This may be discussed in the continuation of the survey in two weeks. It’s over for now.
Day 165: And we read on ...
Another trial day without a witness. It is said to have moved and could not be loaded properly. The witness, who worked as a student for the Lopavent organizer company in 2010, is believed to be based in Berlin and does not know that a room full of lawyers, judges, judicial officers, accused and journalists is waiting for him in vain. In a court case that has a two-year anniversary on Sunday, this must have happened at some point.
The court uses the day to introduce additional evidence. Documents are read out that deal with the calculation of inlet flows or the measurement of immission values. Formulas and numbers, tables and graphs. Everything is done at a fast pace.
An explanation of a previous witness follows. Tomorrow it continues. Then hopefully again with a witness.
Day 164: A surprised fireman
The judge explains in advance that this will be a short day of trial. It should be over at 2 p.m. – he still has an important appointment in the afternoon in Duisburg.
It turns out that we no longer need it today. The witness is a former fireman. The 62-year-old has been retired for five years; he is unable to work. At the Loveparade he was head of the medical and emergency services and was rather on the sidelines on the day because he was sitting in the main fire station and was supposed to coordinate. After the first reports of deaths and injuries, another staff took over the actual event site. The witness then took care of the areas around the former freight yard.
When he found out that he should prepare the emergency services for July 24, 2010 and coordinate them himself on the day, he was initially unable to believe that: “I was completely surprised that I should do this because I thought the head of the medical service should be at home a little better than me. ” Actually, a colleague would have been more suitable because he himself comes from fire protection. But he had little to oppose to the colleagues who had decided that.
Strict division of tasks
In the further planning, he then only looked after his area – there were so many details to be clarified that, for example, he hadn’t even dealt with the security concept. “This event would not have been possible without a strict division of tasks.”
Pressure from above?
A lawyer from the co-plaintiff wants to know whether the fire brigade and its planning team once discussed the fact that pressure was being put on from above to hold the event. “No one ever acknowledged this pressure,” says the witness. “Nor was it said ‘that’s an instruction’, but ‘take care of your tasks’ – everyone knew what it was about.”
Overall, the court and the other parties to the lawsuit have few questions for the man – he is released before 2 p.m.
Day 163: no witnesses - lots of numbers
There are no witnesses on this trial day. The court uses the day to introduce evidence. Documents are read for hours. Important documents. Since there is an almost unmanageable amount of emails, logs, investigation files, plans, videos, etc. in this process, nothing else is dealt with today. The hall lights are dimmed and the three judges take turns reading out what the audience can follow on the three large screens.
The first thing I notice is the date. It comes from the investigation files of the public prosecutor’s office. This shows that a search was carried out on one of the defendants, a hard drive and a laptop were confiscated. The data should have been backed up on 4.3.2011. More than six months after the Loveparade disaster.
“46 people per minute per meter”
The saved data includes emails and a document that looks back on the planning. It is essentially about the flow of people and the associated calculations. According to this document, it was assumed that 31,000 people would arrive at the Duisburg train station per hour – 485,000 should be spread throughout the day. The entrance controls at the tunnel should run 480 people per minute. On the access ramp, 46 people per minute should get through per meter.
A lot of numbers are flying around my ears today, one of which I am particularly concerned with. If 46 people per minute should get through the access ramp per meter, how wide was the ramp ultimately? How wide was it with all the bars and obstacles you can see on the videos? At which point of the ramp should 46 people per minute get through per meter? And have you taken into account that people don’t have to run towards the ramp, but run together from two opposite directions and have to turn onto the ramp? Have you taken into account that there is oncoming traffic? That people come down the ramp because they want to go home? What should 46 people tell me per minute per meter? And as I formulate questions in my head, the court has already moved on to the next piece of evidence.
The discussion with the expert Keith Still
It continues with the detailed written statement by one of the accused on the former expert Keith Still. Numbers, tables and graphs follow again. A technically specific examination of quotations, references and diagrams. The document cannot be read to the end. It’s over for today.
The court announced that in March 2020 Prof. Jürgen Gerlach, the process expert, will present his results and answer questions. Then there will be a lot of numbers again, but hopefully also satisfactory answers.
Day 162: does the process take longer?
There was a surprise on the day of the trial: The presiding judge Mario Plein announced at the session that the court had “thought about the statute of limitations”. It quickly becomes clear that these ideas could have far-reaching consequences for the process.
Almost incidentally, in a conversational tone, the judge lectures the considerations. According to Plein, it is “conceivable” that the start of the limitation period for bodily harm crimes with subsequent psychological injuries caused by the catastrophe only started very late.
As a reminder: Only three defendants are now being tried in the Duisburg district court. The three employees of the organizer Lopavent are said to have planned an unsuitable entry and exit system. There are two charges against the three men: negligent homicide and negligent assault.
On July 28, 2020, the statute of limitations for the allegation of negligent homicide applies – exactly ten years after the death of the last Loveparade victim in the hospital. If no judgment has been passed by then, the remaining defendants will go unpunished. Judge Plein initially confirmed this date at the end of July next year.
The time should be clarified
According to the provisional status, however, the court does not assume that the statute of limitations will come into effect at the end of July 2020 for the accusation of negligent bodily harm, which also includes later “health damage” (plein) such as a post-traumatic stress disorder. In plain language: It is not the unfortunate day of July 24, 2010 that is decisive for the start of limitation periods, but the time of the onset of a mental illness. Trauma can also be felt years after a disaster. Ergo: The limitation period starts later.
Judge Plein says that to clarify the timing, a psychiatric examination of those nine to ten injured co-plaintiffs who had suffered psychological injuries would be needed. The court is aware that such an investigation places a “great burden” on those affected.
Due to Plein’s comments, the question now arises as to whether the process may take longer than the maximum until summer 2020. When asked by a defense attorney, who is understandably rather critical of the “thoughts” of the court, Plein replies the previous case law quite coolly the topic is “relatively clear”. And the court had dealt intensively with the topic.
Judge Plein also made a few announcements regarding the further course of the process: The expert Jürgen Gerlach should be interviewed from March 19 to April 8, 2020. The question of which other witnesses should be heard will also be discussed in the next few weeks – and the statute of limitations will also cause discussions in the coming meetings.
Day 161: “Then our thinking stops”
The quote in the heading of this diary entry suggests that this week’s witness is an employee of the building authority and a former accused. Of course it’s only half the quote. The whole thing is: “This is public traffic space and then our thinking stops.” It is the answer to a question from the judge to what extent the building authority had the tunnel and other aspects of the site in mind during the planning, for example the folder concept or the entrance situation. The engineer answers with the same mantra as the previous witnesses from the building authority: ‘The actual operation is not an issue for the building regulations. We only take care of the construction, the rest is up to the organizer. Therefore, all of these operational processes are not an issue for the building regulations. ‘
The bigger picture
At a meeting on July 15, 2010 at the Lopavent, however, the building officials apparently had again drawn attention to the tunnel problem, according to the same witness statements . The 65-year-old also explains: “There were heated discussions,” a member of the fire brigade “explained to us that this was not our construction site.” Looking beyond one’s own nose was obviously not exactly appreciated. And if you only get yourself into trouble with it, you’d better just let it stay.
The witness does not give the impression of masonry on me. He seems genuinely trying to answer the questions asked of him, is not overbearing, rather resigned. And at the very beginning of his statement, he explains: “On July 24th. I watched this event on TV […], it was a very drastic experience for my family and me […], it was a deep shock, I had never seen anyone harm in projects that I had supervised came.”
Day 160: "This is not in building law."
With the former defendant and employee of the building office, who is currently testifying in the proceedings, a certain impression manifests itself, which I and other process observers have gained here – the hiding behind the phrase: “I was not responsible for this. That’s not in building law. ”
As with other previous city employees, this witness repeatedly says specific and relevant questions: “That was not my job”, “It was not an issue”, “Nobody spoke to me about it”, “I was not there.”
And I wonder who then? Because we have been sitting in this process room for almost two years now and nobody wants to be responsible for safety in the tunnel and on the ramp during the planning.
The 57-year-old official makes an open and communicative impression on the witness stand. He speaks brightly, his body language remains positive and attentive – even though he often rejects responsibility. Only when the co-plaintiffs – of whom much more speak today than on other trial days – ask questions to the witness, is the questioning interrupted by discussions and the attitude of the witness no longer appears so open. This includes fences and the loudspeaker system. Fences that are known to be unable to withstand the pressure and a missing loudspeaker system for security announcements that was part of the fire protection concept .
“Not before and not after.”
According to his own testimony, the witness was twice on the site the day before the catastrophe and carried out a so-called site inspection – an inspection of the site. Defects have been recorded. However, on the day of the Loveparade, his supervisor is said to have decided not to return to check on these shortcomings. The head of the regulatory office should have taken over. It is unusual for such a task to be transferred from one office to another and has never happened before or after the Love Parade, the witness says. Didn’t you always stick to what’s in building law? Or where does it say that it is legitimate to transfer test tasks?
Day 159: "We are not planning anything."
The accident at the 2010 Loveparade in Duisburg made headlines again just today. A Duisburg children’s and youth theater is planning a piece about it for the coming spring. As a spokeswoman emphasizes, it should not be about the accident itself, but about dealing with the topic and how it came about. I am amazed that the theater dares to do that. We’ve been sitting in this courtroom for almost two years now to find out exactly how it happened. With manageable success.
I doubt that today’s witness can seriously change anything about it. He is also a construction worker, and he is also a former defendant in the process. He begins his interrogation by expressing his condolences to the victims and their relatives. After all, a personal statement – we do not hear that from all witnesses and also not from all former defendants.
Basically nothing new
In the further course, however, we do not hear much new. Like his colleagues , the witness explains that the building authority was not responsible for the ramp and the safety concept. Not even for the planning on the site. “We are not planning anything,” he says. The applicants should do that themselves – the building authority is only responsible for checking their plans and then approving them or refusing to grant them.
Complaints the evening before
In his free description, the 57-year-old had previously stated that he wanted to do the building inspection with colleagues on the day before the event. But there were shortcomings that had not yet been remedied in the evening. Thereupon a colleague announced that he would look at it again on July 24, 2010 in the morning. However, we will not find out any more details today, because the judge adjourned before he arrived at this point with his questioning.