The commission of inquiry into April’s soccer stampede that left 43 dead visited Ellis Park stadium for an inspection on Monday.
Stadium general manager George Stainton took the chairman of
the commission, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, and other delegates on
tour through the sports ground in Johannesburg.
Sixteen different points were visited, including the joint operations centre and the north-east corner of the stadium where most
spectators were killed.
“Regretfully, this is where the actual tragedy occurred,” Stainton
said at the north-east gangway near gates four, five and six. “This
is also where the fence was knocked down.”
“If you observe above you … some people fell from the top
directly down to where we are standing.”
Stainton earlier testified before the commission that he was at
first merely concerned about the security situation on the fateful
night, but thought that it still could be contained. It was only when
he was summoned to the north-east corner of the grandstand and
saw a pile of bodies in the top corner that he realised that it had
turned into a tragedy.
The hearings into the disaster will resume on Tuesday with several witnesses expected to testify.
Forty-three people were killed, among them children as young as 12 years, and about 155 injured during the derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs on April 11.
A child, seven women and 21 men were killed inside the stadium and one woman and 13 men died outside the stadium.
The match was halted after 35 minutes and was officially called off some time after the stampede.
Some people were trampled to death and others were crushed against barbed wire as the crowd surged forward to try to get into the stadium.
Chaos soon broke out and people fell to their deaths while climbing up fences and jumping over razor wire in attempts to escape the deluge of people.
“People were standing on the top, trying to get around to the suites,” Stainton recalled at the north-east corner. “People fell down this wall … you can have a look – it’s quite scary.”
It was reported that about 80 000 people showed up for the match, while Ellis Park can take about 60 000, but closer to 55 000 if the suites are excluded.
The delegation had a look at the ticket booths and channelling at
North Park Lane Gate which was the first gate to be broken that
Other entrances and perimeter fencing in and around the sports
ground were also viewed.
Stainton also showed the delegation the “spotter rooms”, used
by the among others the police for general observation, the joint
operations centre, the media centre and the VIP area where
dignitaries watched the game.