Minutes to dying: Itaewon Halloween selfies assist households piece collectively tragedy that killed 158 | CNN

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“She’s smiling, take a look at her smile, her face.” Oh Il-seok appears to be like lovingly at {a photograph} of his daughter taken within the final hours of her life. As he takes off his glasses to wipe his eyes, his spouse whispers, “Ji-min is my buddy, she is my greatest buddy.”

Oh Ji-min, 25, was among the many 158 individuals who died in a crowd crush throughout Halloween festivities in Seoul’s Itaewon nightlife district on October 29.

Her mother and father have the unthinkable activity of piecing collectively her final moments from selfies and photographs taken on her cell phone.

At 9:35 p.m., the photographs present Ji-min smiling inside a bar. At 9:59 p.m., she messages a buddy to say she goes house. Just a few photographs with fellow revelers in fancy gown observe, then, at 10:07 p.m., the final picture of Ji-min, smiling together with her buddy Kim.

The pair then headed for the subway, weaving their means by the plenty. Inside minutes they have been caught in a panicking crowd, and swept off their ft right into a slender alleyway the place scores of individuals are to die.

“We didn’t imply to go down that alleyway … it felt like we acquired sucked in,” recalled Kim, who requested to be recognized solely by her household identify and spoke to CNN within the days main as much as a memorial held for the victims on Friday.

“I acquired separated from (Ji-min) as two different males walked between us. When that occurred, I misplaced my loafers however my ft weren’t touching the bottom and I used to be simply being moved by the gang.”

Official sources time the deadly crush as starting at 10:15 p.m., simply eight minutes after Ji-min’s last selfie. All 158 deaths occurred within the alleyway – about 4 meters (13 ft) large – that the 2 younger girls have been swept into. Along with the various younger South Koreans and 26 foreigners who died, 196 individuals have been injured – Kim amongst them.

A photo of Ji-min and fellow revelers taken just minutes before the fatal crush. CNN obscured portions of this image to protect the identity of people in the background who did not consent to be photographed.

“Somebody in entrance me fell and I fell down too,” Kim mentioned. “The subsequent factor I spotted was that I used to be mendacity on prime of a overseas man and folks piled on prime of me and others. I used to be on the second layer of that pile.”

Hope got here when she noticed a face of a paramedic in entrance of her. He tried to tug out a lady however each time her physique moved the pile of individuals screamed.

“We have been already pressed however the try to tug her added extra ache to us, so he needed to cease,” Kim mentioned.

One police officer who attended the scene mentioned by the point he arrived there was already a pile of our bodies within the alleyway.

“We couldn’t pull individuals out from the underside, there was an excessive amount of stress, I assume they’d already died,” mentioned the officer, who requested anonymity resulting from worry of retribution from superiors.

“Individuals within the second and third layers have been fading, crying out for assist, however we couldn’t pull them out.”

His account tallies with that of a primary responder who instructed CNN they noticed as much as “10 rows of faces (however) we couldn’t even see their legs.”

Kim’s recollection of her personal rescue is hazy. “I used to be pulled out and I spent a while mendacity on the bottom. I feel I misplaced myself for someday and awakened once more. It was round 12:30 a.m. once I was moved in an ambulance.”

“I used to be hospitalized for one evening and discharged. I couldn’t stroll till the following morning. I pinched my legs however didn’t really feel something. I left hospital however I couldn’t really feel my legs for about 10 days.”

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Video investigation: How an evening of celebrations turns right into a catastrophe

Ji-min’s mom, Kim Eun-mi, had no thought her daughter was in Itaewon. She started to fret as a result of Ji-min all the time got here house early from an evening out.

“I met Ji-min for purchasing that day because it was Saturday. After purchasing we had lunch collectively and she or he was off to see her buddy. So once I heard from my son that she went to Itaewon, I mentioned, ‘no, she went to see her buddy.’”

All by the evening, the household made frantic calls to Ji-min’s mobile phone, hospitals and the police, visiting her close by flat in case she had already come house.

At 1 p.m. the next afternoon the household acquired a name asking them to return and determine Ji-min’s physique at a hospital morgue.

“It’s actually devastating to determine your personal little one,” Kim Eun-mi mentioned. In between sobs, her husband added, “After I go to mattress… that picture involves me so I can’t sleep.”

The household go to see Ji-min on a regular basis on the memorial park, near house. On each sleepless evening, Ji-min’s mother and father go to a web based chat room that brings collectively members of the family of those that misplaced their family members within the tragedy.

Kim Eun-mi mentioned it’s useful to speak to others in the identical scenario as a result of solely they’ll perceive one another’s ache.

Bereaved father Oh Il-seok and mother Kim Eun-mi in Siheung City, Gyeonggi province, South Korea, on Dec. 14, 2022.

Grief is changing into clouded with unanswered questions and anger within the house the place Ji-min grew up.

“The toughest and most irritating half is that nobody is held accountable. The tragedy occurred, however nobody is accountable,” Kim Eun-mi mentioned.

A consultative group fashioned by the bereaved households of greater than 97 victims of the crush has referred to as for a proper apology from President Yoon Suk Yeol and demanded the dismissal of the nation’s security minister for failing to forestall a tragedy.

Whereas Yoon has expressed his “condolences” to the households, he has stopped wanting an apology – saying that “people who find themselves particularly accountable” must be held accountable.

Security Minister Lee Sang-min, talking on Oct. 30, mentioned the tragedy couldn’t have been prevented by dispatching police or hearth division forces upfront.

A particular investigation is ongoing inside the Nationwide Police Company however a parliamentary investigation has but to start resulting from political infighting.

To date, two law enforcement officials have been dismissed and arrested, accused of destroying an inside report in regards to the dangers stemming from a big crowd gathering in Itaewon throughout Halloween festivities.

The previous chief police officer of Yongsan district Lee Im-jae is being investigated on suspicion {of professional} negligence and forging an official doc, whereas the previous emergency monitoring officer Tune Byung-joo is being investigated on suspicion {of professional} negligence.

The police officer who spoke to CNN mentioned he’s involved by the route the investigation seems to be taking. He fears it’s too targeted on errors made after the tragedy quite than the dearth of security planning forward of time.

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CNN reporter returns to Itaewon’s slender alley in the future after the Halloween catastrophe. See what’s it like

“The issue with this now’s that the individuals who ought to actually be accountable should not taking accountability. The route of the investigation will not be trying up, solely down,” mentioned the police officer.

“There could have been errors attempting to avoid wasting only one extra life however if you happen to blame us, who would wish to do that job.”

Ji-min’s mother and father mentioned they’ve heard nothing from the federal government since their daughter’s funeral was held.

Politics has no place within the investigation, they mentioned. They need information about how and the place their daughter died and solutions to the tougher query of why.

As they give the impression of being by a field of birthday playing cards and photographs with associates retrieved from her daughter’s flat, they battle with the life-changing tragedy that ought to by no means have occurred.

“She was so heat and wonderful,” Kim Eun-mi mentioned of her daughter. “She was such a beautiful daughter to me however she’s not with me anymore.”

Her voice falters as sobs overtake her as soon as once more.

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