KOBE – An official from the firm handling crowd control at the July 21 fireworks display where 11 people were crushed to death fabricated stories about unruly youths and unresponsive riot police in order to shift the blame for the tragedy, police sources claimed Monday.
The official, currently being questioned by Hyogo Prefectural Police, told investigators he consulted a senior Akashi municipal official in compiling the report on the accident. Neither of the officials nor the security company were identified.
Prefectural police suspect that the municipal government may have known of the falsified report by the security company, which had been commissioned by the city of Akashi to handle crowd control at the event, the sources said.
Kazuo Minami, chief of the city’s commerce and tourism section, denied that the city cooperated with the security company in making the alleged falsification.
The accident took place when thousands of people packed a narrow pedestrian overpass that linked the fireworks event site on a local beach and a nearby JR train station.
After some 200 people fell on each other on the extremely crowded overpass, 11 people, mostly small children, were killed and more than 180 others were injured, five of whom remain hospitalized.
Poor crowd control was cited as the main cause of the tragedy, and city officials, the security company and the Akashi police have been questioned by prefectural police investigators.
According to the sources, the security company official, after a series of talks with a senior Akashi city official on the night of the accident, submitted the report to the city and to reporters at a news conference the next morning. The report said the security company asked police to divide visitors to the event into groups to avoid congestion, and that the firm asked for riot police after congestion became serious. After the accident, the security company criticized the slow action by the local police.
It also alleged that “young people with dyed hair were pushing spectators around,” citing them as a factor behind the chaos at the scene.
But the Hyogo Prefectural Police probe found that no request for a riot police unit was made to local officers and that no young people were seen inflicting violence on other spectators.
Police said the security company official has admitted lying, telling investigators that he falsified the report in an attempt to dodge responsibility by shifting the blame to part of the crowd and to local police.
Hyogo police sources said last week that the security firm has also admitted to falsely claiming that it had made attempts to regulate the flow of traffic to and from the fireworks site, as well as to padding the number of security staff deployed.
Minami admitted Monday in a session of the Akashi Municipal Assembly that the city did not have full knowledge of crowd control plans for the event, saying it relied on details from the security company.
The city trusted the company because the firm had handled security at previous city-organized events, Minami said, adding that crowd control at the July 21 event was “left to the company because we thought experts should be in charge.”
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