Who is responsible for the Love Parade Disaster in Duisburg?

They just wanted to party and experience the Love Parade live. What they got was a deadly trap. It seems that this Love Parade was not only the 20th but maybe also the last. Around 20 persons were killed and several hundred injured - more or less severely. The responsibility is not only political but also legal. While the politicians are doing the best searching for the person(s) to blame, this article will introduce you to the questions the public prosecutor will be examining during the next weeks, months and maybe even years.


Liability of the Organizer

The organizer of any and all events, happenings, public concerts holds the key responsibility in terms of civil and criminal law. His civil liability is determined on the grounds that he created a danger. He therefore has the duty to do everything reasonable to see that this danger does not come about realize. An organizer has a high liability risk because he is responsible for a frictionless and safe event. He will not only personally be liable but also his assistants (§278 BGB). Considering possible damages and injuries, organizers typically take out a liability insurance to cover such risks, which can easily become excessive. Such insurance exists for the Love Parade 2010 GmbH, having a coverage sum of 7.5 million for injuries. Relating to the great number of victims and injured persons, this sum will probably not be enough; the GmbH itself will have to come up for damages beyond the amount of this coverage up to only as much as the company's capitalization (§13 III GmbHG). The shareholders of the GmbH will only be liable in as far as their share has not been fully paid and only to the amount of their share (§§14 cl. 1, 19 I GmbHG). If the managing director of the company can be called to account, he will then be personally liable (§43 GmbHG).

Joint Liability of the City of Duisburg

A joint liability of the city of Duisburg can exist when it is proved that the organizing company has meet any and all terms and conditions of the permit issuing office. The office for construction supervising office (Bauaufsichtsbehörde) can be made responsible when the event should not have been permitted because of evident security risks. This office had to inspect to ensure that the event meets the statutory security requirements. Each federal state has an ordinance for meeting places (Versammlungsstättenverordnung). North Rhine Westphalia has its rules for such mass events in the Ordinance for Special Construction (Sonderbauverordnung). §38 of this ordinance determines that the event carrier, i.e. the owner of the property, is responsible for the safety and for observing these rules and has to collaborate with all services for public safety, rescue, order, fire safety, police. The carrier can transfer this responsibility in writing to the organizer of the event. This means that the prosecuting authority has to explore whether such an agreement has been closed. When more than one person is liable, the injured persons can choose from whom to collect (§421 BGB). As long as all damages and injuries have not been covered, all remain responsible.

Setting up a Security Concept

The organizer is by statute responsible to present a security concept for the event. The construction surveillance office has to request the support of the police, fire department and rescue services to develop a sustainable concept for the safety of the participants and to finally have this concept checked by an expert. Pursuant to the information of news magazine Spiegel Online, the competent office granted the Love Parade GmbH an exceptional permission (change of use) concerning the statutory width requirements for escape paths and also waived any plans concerning the fire department. Simultaneously, the office determined the maximum number of participants to be 250,000. The width of the rescue paths is determined by the Ordinance for Special Construction. For open-air events, the rescue path must be at least 1.2 m per 600 persons. Was there any discretion permitting such changes? When yes, was the discretion correctly used? The answers depend on how many persons really visited the Love Parade and for how many participants the area was designed and how many persons could have been brought through the tunnel. Considering the number of participants, the question remains to be answered whether or not the Love Parade should have been permitted at all. The Ordinance for Special Construction requires to plan for two persons per square meter.

How the Mass Panic Happened?

What colloquially is called mass panic, the scientists call "crowd disasters" when many persons try to squeeze into a straight-line area their access is restricted more and more (i.e. it becomes more crowded and not as open as it was planned to be) and as a result many more persons end up pushing from behind. The crowdedness consistently increases. You consider yourself endangered and eventually try to flee from it. Such movements of masses unleash great power against which people have to stand. Beyond a certain point you will be helplessly exposed to this power. Typical injuries at such mass accidents are contusion of the thorax, of limbs, and broken bones. The individual can hardly control his own movements in such situations; he becomes a ball at the mercy of the mass dynamics. Scientists hope to come to grips on such mass dynamics, with the aid of cameras and computer systems. The cameras recognize at an early stage typical movement dynamics and accompanying warning signals. The investigating authorities will have to clarify whether cameras were installed and the influx of participants was monitored or otherwise controlled.

Security Measurements for Mass Events

The cameras are to prevent that such dangerous accumulation arise. Starting at a certain density so-called "stop-and-go waves" come up. The movement of persons does not regularly flow but bogs down. When the situation gets worse, shock waves can come up. The devastating results of this came true at the Love Parade this year. Experts consider separate entrances and exits especially for mass events as particularly important in order to directs the stream of persons. Beyond that, sufficient overflow areas should also be available. Prevention is essential because after a certain stage, influence from the outside will be hardly possible. Experts nevertheless believe that during a mass panic the mob still can be controlled by giving clear and distinct directions via speakers on how to behave.

Communication among Security and the Police

It remains to be clarified how security and the police reacted as the situation on the ramp became precarious. Were any announcements made via speakers or megaphones? Was the music so loud that the squeezed in visitors could not hear the directions of the police? It is also important to determine how the police acted on-the-spot for their liability. On the premises of the event, the police are only allowed to interact in cases of public safety and order or when the organizer asks them for help. But at the Love Parade, how did the communication work? Which arrangements were agreed upon for the entry restrictions for the area between the ramp and the tunnel? Why was the tunnel the only entrance? Since it had to suffice for entry and exit this could have been a reason that the masses of persons had a traffic jam exactly there because the masses wanting to leave and the masses wanting to come met exactly there, at the tunnel. It is still be clarified what signposting was arranged and exactly when the second ramp to exit was opened.

Criminal Prosecution for Negligent Manslaughter

Since 21 people died, the state prosecutor is investigating for negligent manslaughter. Pursuant to §222 StGB, this will be prosecuted with imprisonment of not more than five years or a fine. Especially in relation to a possible prosecution of actions and activities of the responsible persons, these actions will have to be determined exactly for before and during the accident. The investigation(s) will concentrate on not only the organizing person but also, directors of the municipal authorities and others. When the representatives of the municipal agencies acted with gross negligence, they can be personally prosecuted. A person acts negligently if he fails to exercise reasonable care (§276 BGB). A person can only be prosecuted for negligent manslaughter when the death of a person was predictable as a result of the given circumstances.

A Lengthy Investigation(s) is to be Expected

The prosecuting authority of Duisburg is expecting a lengthy investigation(s) because all documents of the administration for the granting proceedings as well as all testimonies, pictures shot and video recordings are to be exploited. The insurer of the Love Parade also assumes it will take a long time to determine the damages. Everything is pointing out that everything will be cleared up only in court. Only then will we with certainty know is responsible for this disaster.

Visitors needing counseling can call the police at 0201 / 8298091. You can also contact them by eMail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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