El Salvador arrested five football officials Thursday as prosecutors blamed “greed” and fake ticket sales for a weekend stampede that killed 12 people.
The remainder of the domestic league season was cancelled as the country grappled with the aftermath of a deadly crush which the prosecutor’s office said was due to overcrowding.
After all available tickets were sold out for Saturday’s match at Cuscatlan Stadium in the capital San Salvador, organizers decided to illegally sell fake ones as well, the office charged on its Twitter account.
“Negligence in the organization and greed, in overbooking, resulted in a human avalanche that caused loss of life and injuries and endangered the safety of attendees,” it added.
About 500 people were treated for various injuries at the scene, while 88 were hospitalized. Most have since been discharged.
The prosecutor’s office said Alianza president Pedro Hernandez, the club’s security and financial managers, the general manager of the 35,000-seater Cuscatlan stadium and another stadium official were arrested and charged with manslaughter.
They may also be held culpable for injuries suffered by stampede victims, and for the “public havoc” that erupted at the stadium in the capital San Salvador.
The office said there had not been enough gates for the number of fans in the stadium, and doors were “not opened with sufficient anticipation” for fans to safely come and go.
The five officials will appear in court in the coming days and risk prison sentences of up to 12 years.
– ‘Deplorable’ –
On Wednesday, the Salvadoran football federation (Fesfut) and Liga Mayor top league said the remainder of the 2022-23 season, now in the quarter-finals of the playoff stage, had been cancelled following the “deplorable” events.
“Our priority will be to ensure that safety measures at football events are reinforced,” said the joint statement.
A group called Jugadores Unidos (Players United) urged Fesfut to reconsider the cancellation of the season, citing the large number of people who depend on football matches for their income.
Saturday’s match between host Alianza and FAS from Santa Ana was suspended in the 15th minute after chaos broke out.
It apparently started when supporters broke through a locked gate leading to a different section of the stadium.
Fesfut on Tuesday ordered Alianza to play its home matches before an empty stadium for a year, and fined it $30,000, payable before July 21.
It said security measures and control of access to the stadium “were obviously insufficient and deficient.”
El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele had vowed that those responsible for Saturday’s events “will not go unpunished.”