Two American students were among 154 people killed in a crowd disaster during Halloween celebrations in the South Korean capital of Seoul on Saturday night.
South Korean President Yun Suk-yeol declared a week-long period of national mourning on Sunday for those killed in the crash that occurred as 100,000 revelers packed into the Itaewon nightspot.
Among the dead was Anna Gieske, 20, an American nursing student at the University of Kentucky who was studying abroad in South Korea and documenting her travels on Instagram.
“I have the incredibly sad responsibility to inform you of the loss of one of our students over the weekend,” university President Eli Capiluto said in a statement to students and faculty on Sunday.
“There are no adequate or appropriate words to describe the pain of a beautiful life cut short. It is not fair, nor is it understandable. It is a loss and it hurts in ways that are impossible to articulate.
Steven Blesi, a 20-year-old student at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, was also killed in the disaster, according to his father Steve Blesi.
“We have just received confirmation that our son has passed away,” Mr Blesi Sr said on Twitter on Sunday. “Thank you for the outpouring of love. We need time to grieve.
He said The New York Times:”[My son] he was an adventurous spirit and a loving spirit. That’s the only way I know how to describe him. And the loss is just unbearable.”
It is still unclear how and why the disaster happened. South Korean police have formed a task force of around 600 people to investigate the incident.
But early reports and statements from emergency officials suggested it was a crowd crush, where people were trapped so tightly together or under the weight of people falling on top of them that they couldn’t breathe.
Witnesses and survivors described an “inferno-like” chaos of people falling on top of each other “like dominoes”, with the entire area of Itaewon jammed with vehicles and crowds of onlookers preventing rescuers from reaching the victims.
It was reportedly the first public celebration of Halloween in three years after the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, and most of the dead were teenagers or adults in their twenties.
A crowd crush at a soccer match in Indonesia killed 130 people earlier this month, while a similar event at the Astroworld Festival in Texas killed 10 last year.