Velandia was separated from her friend, Carolina Cano, 21, from Mexico, and began to feel the weight of other people’s bodies crushing her. “At one point, my feet weren’t even touching the ground anymore,” she said. “There was an unconscious guy on top of me, which was affecting my breathing.”
Velandia focused on shallow breaths through her mouth as her lungs began to feel flattened. People around her were screaming for help or calling for the police, she said, but they gradually died down as their bodies went limp above and below her. Stuck in a pile of people, she remembers being able to move her neck freely while the rest of her body was restrained.
“I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to be next.’ I really thought I was going to die,” she said. “I was completely paralyzed. At one point, I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. I couldn’t even move my toes.
She was stuck like this, unable to feel any part of her body, until a young man standing on a raised ledge grabbed her arms and pulled her out of the crowd. She said she was then able to look at her phone and saw that it was 10:57 p.m.
After a few minutes, she began to regain sensation in her legs. Even then, “there were so many unconscious bodies on the floor that I couldn’t even walk,” she said.
She managed to get home, but on Sunday she developed a fever and spent four hours in the emergency room at St. Mary’s Hospital, Catholic University of Korea, where she was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a potentially life-threatening illness. deadly that involves muscles. injury and necrosis as cells – in the case of Velandia, in the leg – begin to die. The muscle tissue releases proteins and electrolytes into the blood and can damage the heart or kidneys or cause permanent disability or death. On Friday, doctors will check his kidneys for damage. Speaking from her dorm on Monday, she said the pain had gotten worse. One leg is swollen and purple, and she is unable to place her entire foot on the ground while walking.
Even now, her chest hurts if she breathes too deeply.
Ali Asgary, an expert in disaster and emergency management at York University in Canada, said mob disasters “are one of the most complicated and least understood events”.
“Injuries and fatalities in these situations can be caused by a combination of factors working together,” he said in an email. These factors include the population density, the strength of the walls, whether the ground is uneven or not or the narrowness of the space, he added.
Other safety experts have pointed to restrictive asphyxia, head trauma, and broken ribs as possible causes of injury or death in crowd crush cases. And the difficulty authorities often have in evacuating the injured or providing prompt medical treatment can make matters worse, according to Rohini Haar, an emergency physician who teaches at the University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health. “Unfortunately, once a crush starts, it’s hard to stop.”
According to Velandia, many people were trying to move bodies to more open ground to perform CPR as she escaped from the crowds on Saturday night. Some people who appeared lifeless had vomited in their mouths and around them, suggesting they had choked, she said.
She tracked down her friend, Cano, who had borrowed a stranger’s cell phone to call her. The two met outside Itaewon Station, the place where so many revelers had started their Halloween night.
“We hugged and we cried a lot when we saw each other, because we really thought the other was dead,” Velandia said. “It’s a miracle we’re alive, really.”