Italian police probing deadly nightclub stampede find pepper spray can

  • Unclear whether can found was one teenager used, apparently triggering mad rush for the door in which six people were killed
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 December, 2018, 11:34pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 December, 2018, 11:34pm

Italian police investigating a deadly disco stampede said on Sunday they found a pepper spray can and were questioning dozens of witnesses after claims a teenage boy sprayed an irritating substance, triggering the mad rush.

It wasn’t known whether the can found was the one that apparently set off the stampede about 1am on Saturday in a crowd waiting for a rapper to perform at the Lanterna Azzurra (Blue Lantern) in Corinaldo, a small town in the Marche region.

Carabiniere paramilitary police commander of Ancona province Colonel Cristian Carrozza would not confirm Italian media reports that a 16-year-old boy had been identified as the sprayer and would be questioned by Juvenile Court officials.

Five teenagers and a woman who accompanied her 11-year-old daughter to the concert, died in the crush of fleeing concertgoers who toppled over a railing on top of a cement ramp by an exit. The railing gave way, sending young people tumbling over it and landing atop of each other in the area below the ramp, about 1.5 metres (feet) below.

On Saturday, prosecutors and Italy’s premier and interior minister told reporters that nearly 1,400 tickets had been sold, while the disco could only safely hold 870 people, with the capacity of the room of the concert itself about 460.

On Sunday, Carrozza said a count of ticket stubs indicated that about 600 tickets were used for entry. It was unclear whether others might have got in without tickets checked by door staff.

One of the DJs, Marco Cecchini, told reporters he was sure more than just one room of the disco was open, in addition to the one with the 460-person capacity.

“I’ve done 40-50 evenings in that place, and, sincerely, there weren’t so many people. I’d estimate maybe 800-900 people, but all the rooms were open,” the Italian news agency ANSA quoted Cecchini, who is the son of one of the disco’s managers, as saying.

Several parents whose children had gone to the concert on Saturday took police mobile phones to show videos of the disco’s premises in case the visuals could help in the investigation, ANSA said.

Many parents and patrons said the club was jam-packed.

Carrozza said on Saturday police had taken accounts from more than 80 people, and many more concertgoers were being questioned on Sunday.

Seven of the more than 50 people injured in the stampede were in critical condition on Sunday while the remaining patients had either been discharged or were about to be discharged, doctors said.

After Interior Minister Matteo Salvini insisted safety codes for public places be rigorously respected, police overnight shut down two discos in the south, near the port city of Salerno, for apparent overcrowding.