A memorial for victims of the stampede at Kanjuruhan stadium in Malang, East Java. Juni Kriswanto/AFP via Getty Images
Indonesian police said Tuesday that the gates at the football stadium where police fired tear gas and set off a deadly crush were too small and could only accommodate two at a time when hundreds were trying to escape.
Photos from the Malang stadium, where 125 people died and hundreds were injured on Saturday night in one of the worst sporting event disasters, showed four connecting doors forming one gate.
Police said the investigation was focused on six of the 14 gates, where most of the spectators died in the crush.
Police spokesperson Dedi Prasetyo said that they were unlocked but only able to accommodate two people at a time.
“For those six gates, they were not closed but they were too small. They had a capacity for two people but there were hundreds coming out. There was a crush there,” Prasetyo said.
He added that the gates were the responsibility of the organisers.
On Monday, police announced they had removed one police chief and nine elite officers and 18 others were being investigated for responsibility in the firing of tear gas inside the stadium.
The match in East Java’s Malang city was attended only by hometown Arema FC fans. The organisers had banned supporters of the visiting team, Persebaya Surabaya, because of Indonesia’s history of violent football rivalries.
Witnesses said some of the 42,000 Arema fans ran onto the pitch in anger after the team was defeated 3-2, its first loss at home against Persebaya in 23 years. Some threw bottles and other objects at players and football officials. At least five police vehicles were toppled and set ablaze outside the stadium.
Most of the deaths occurred when riot police, trying to stop the violence, fired tear gas, including in the stands, triggering a disastrous crush of fans making a panicked, chaotic run for the exits. Most of the 125 people who died were trampled or suffocated. The victims included two police officers.
Saturday’s game was among the world’s worst crowd disasters in sports, including a 1996 World Cup qualifier between Guatemala and Costa Rica in Guatemala City in which over 80 died and more than 100 were injured. In April 2001, more than 40 people were crushed to death during a football match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa. In February 2012, 74 people were killed and more than 500 injured after a match between rivals al-Masry and al-Ahly when thousands of al-Masry fans invaded the field and attacked visiting supporters. The Egyptian league was suspended for two years as a result.