The Love Parade Disaster
Causes and Consequences
Abstract On July, 24th 2010 there was a severe incident at the love parade in
Duisburg, Germany. At the entrance ramp to the festival area, 21 persons died in
a crowd crush and many were injured. In this contribution, the background of the
disaster is presented and the causes and consequences that can be identiﬁed to date
are described. The major ﬁnding for the cause of the disaster is the following: it
was triggered by a break-downof the inﬂow from the main ramp to the festival area
resulting in congestion and high local density on the ramp.The consequence was an
increasing attractiveness of alternative access points to the venue (at the same time
ways to escape from the congestion): a frame, a container, and most of all a narrow
stair located at the side of the main-ramp. This closed feedback loop of causes and
consequences formed a vicious circle and produced densities, pressures, and forces
within the crowd that led to sever injuries, asphyxia, crushedrib cages, and the death
of 21 people. Understanding the causes of this disaster might hopefully be helpful
in preventing future incidents.
1 Background: The History and Character of the Love
The history and background of the Love Parade are described in , which provides
a thorough introduction to the topic of this contribution. All readers are encouraged
to refer to  for background information.
H. Klüpfel ()
TraffGo HT GmbH, Duisburg, Germany
U. Weidmann et al. (eds.), Pedestrian and Evacuation Dynamics 2012,
© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014
1386 H. Klüpfel
The Love Parade (German: Loveparade) was a popular electronic dance music festival
and parade that originated in 1989 in West Berlin, Germany. It has been held annually
in Germany 1989–2003 in Berlin, then again in 2006 in Berlin and from 2007 to 2010 in
the Ruhr region. The 2004 and 2005 events in Berlin and the 2009 event in Bochum 
were cancelled. On 24 July 2010, a crowd crush at the Love Parade caused the death of
21 people, with at least 500 others injured.  As a consequence of this, the organiser of
the festival announced that no further Love Parades would be held and that the festival was
permanently cancelled. , Refs. andasin
Recently, a thorough investigation of the topic has been published . This
analysis comes conclusions similar to those presented here, especially the complex
interplay and interdependence of several factors contributing to the disaster.
2 The Disaster
The disaster happened on July, 24th, 2010 in Duisburg, Germany. The event was not
cancelled after the disaster but continued.
Entrance was granted at 12:00 CEST (10:00 UTC). A 240-m tunnel from the east and a
series of underpasses from the west met at a ramp that was supposed to be the only entrance
and exit point of the festival area.  A smaller ramp existed between the underpasses
from the west. Because of overcrowding, police at the entrance began announcing over
loudspeakers that new arrivals should turn around and head back. [8,9] The side of the
tunnel that was the entry of the parade area was closed, but people continued to enter the
tunnel from the rear, despite being told it was closed. A stampede occurred as the ramp
between tunnel underpasses and the festival area became overcrowded. [7,8]
There was some debate as to how the deaths occurred. Some reports suggested they were
caused by people falling off a staircase as they tried to escape the tunnel. [8,9]However,
autopsies showed that all of the fatalities were due to crushed rib cages. [10,11]
(quoted from , references [7–11] of the quotation are as in ).
3 Causes of the Disaster
The discussion about the causes of the disaster focussed on three groups of actors
responsible for planning, organizing, and supervising the event:
• The organizer
• The police
• The city
The events at the love parade are also subject of a legal investigation. In this
context, an expert report has been prepared by K. Still. Some of the results of this
report are discussed below. The full report is available for download .
The Love Parade Disaster 1387
Points of Attraction
Fig. 1 The event as a system (Adapted from Mamrot )
3.1 The Festival Area
=M the festival area can be seen online. It was a former freight yard in the city
centre next to the main station. For the love parade, the part between the two streets
“Koloniestraße” and “Karl-Lehr-Straße” (both directed from West to East) was used.
The A59 motorway borders the area in the west and the railway tracks in the east
(both in north–south direction). The railway tracks border the area in the east (also
in north–south-direction). North of the area is the central station. Between the area
and the central station are some parking lots (“P”).
The A59 motorway is beneath surface level (i.e. in a tunnel) in the vicinity of
the central station, but at surface level (or nearly at surface level) next to the festival
area. The A59 was blocked on the day of the event. It was intended to be used as
part of the emergency escape routes, access routes for the emergency services, and
potentially assembly space for evacuees. The area has an extension of approximately
900 m in north south and 240 m in east–west-direction. In the north it is bordered by
“Koloniestraße”.In the south it extents beyond“Karl-Lehr-Straße”for about 200 m.
Both streets, i.e. “Koloniestraße” and “Kerl-Lehr-Straße” are below surface level,
i.e. tunneled below the festival area. That is the reason, why access to the festival
area was via a ramp from “Karl-Lehr-Straße” in the south. Details are described in
the next section.
A map showing the routes from the central station to the festival area can
be found at http://www.raveline.de/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Besucherstrom1.
1388 H. Klüpfel
Fig. 2 Psychological explanation (According to Dörner )
3.2 The Way from the Station to the Festival Area
The way from the central station (“Duisburg Hbf”) to the festival area is shown in
Fig. 2. It is via “Neudorfer Straße” and “Grabenstraße” to “Karl-Lehr-Straße” in the
east and via “Friedrich-Wilhelm-Straße” and “Düsseldorfer Straße” to “Karl-Lehr-
Straße” in the west. The idea was to separate ﬂows already in the central station
(“Hauptbahnhof”), which has four exits and entrances, two in the west and two
in the east. The northern entrances (close to “Landfermannstraße”) were assigned
to the directions “Oberhausen/Essen” and the southern entrances to the directions
3.3 The Capacities of the Tunnel and the Ramp
One of the major reasons for the crowd crush on the ramp identiﬁed in isthe
insufﬁcient capacity of the ramp. The ramp is located in the centre of the map in
Fig. 1(“Alter Güterbahnhof”). Its width is 18 m. There is a second ramp in the
south of the festival area. It is longer than the main ramp and located west of it. Its
width is approximately 7 m. This second ramp is called side ramp in the remaining
part of this paper. The crowd crush took place on the main ramp.
In his report, K. Still concludes that the width of the entry ramp to the festival
area was to narrow to cover the demand . There, a ﬂow rate of 82 per meter per
minute is used. The width of the main ramp was determined from CAD drawings to
be 18.28 m (see , page 14). The ﬂow per hour is then:
FDf:wD82 P=m=min:18:28 mD89; 938 P=h(1)
(the result in , page 14, of this calculation is 89,790 people per hour).
The Love Parade Disaster 1389
For the day of the event, an effective width of 10.59 m is reported in ,
pages 14 and 15, obtained from photographs. Based on that effective width, a ﬂow
capacity of 52,103 is calculated. The comparison of the demand reported in the
safety concept (reprinted on page 15 of ) and the actual capacity then leads to the
two values of 52,103 P/h as capacity and 145,000 P/h as the peak demand between
17.00 and 18.00 h. In this calculation, the estimated demand is taken from the
planning documents. The actual number of persons on the site has been estimated
to be roughly 180,000 persons . On the other hand, the width of the ramp was
not taken from the plans but from the actual situation in . The side ramp was
neglected completely. If the calculation is based on the situation as planned (i.e.
without hindsight bias), then two factors have to be taken into account
1. The planned effective width of the main-ramp
2. The availability of the side-ramp.
The side-ramp was part of the entry and exit concept the parade character of the
festival is visible from the ﬂoat course. The 16 ﬂoat-trucks circled around the old
freight yard building in the centre. When repeating the calculation with a total width
of 25 m for both ramps, the results is the following:
FDf:wD82 P=m=min:25 mD123; 000 P=h(2)
Then, the excess demand would be 22,000 persons in the hour between 5 and
6 pm (17.00 and 18.00 h).
This is the only hour, when the demand exceeds the capacity. Assuming a
density of 1.5 P/m2, a queue in the tunnels and underpasses of “Karl-Lehr-Straße”
approximately 600 m long (in two directions) would form. This estimate is based
on a width of 15 m of “Karl-Lehr-Straße”. This queue would then reach beyond
“Grabenstraße” in the east and “Düsseldorfer Straße” in the west. The distance
between both streets (i.e. the length of “Karl-Lehr-Straße”) is about 820 m.
Those simple considerations show that the actual situation can be described as a
capacity problem: the main entry ramp was too narrow because of stands, fences,
and cars located there. The “simple math” approach does not coverthe major fault of
the planning process, though. If the ingress would have been as planned concerning
geometry and schedule, then the demand would have been in excess of the capacity
only in the time between 5 and 6 pm. This of course would have required strict
adherence to the planned processes and their thorough implementation.
The different cordons were implemented by the police are shown(“Polizeikette”).
A detailed analysis of the events with references to the available internet videos can
be found in . The police chains were erected after the inﬂow to the festival
area via the main ramp came to a stop. At the upper end of the ramp, the persons
stopped. The concept of pushing did not work, i.e. the so called pushers at the upper
end of the in-ramp were not able to keep a steady inﬂow. This might have different
reasons: it might not have been possible because of the ﬂoats leaving too little room
1390 H. Klüpfel
or there might have been too few pushers. The analysis in  concludes that this
is one of the major causes of the later crowd crush.
4 The Event as a System
When looking at the event as a system, the different inﬂuences on the comfort
and safety of the visitors depend on and inﬂuence each other. For the case of the
crowd crush, the situation is shown in Fig. 1. There are three potentially dangerous
1. Density – Thread – Attraction of Escape – Density (always !(C))
2. Density – Number of Victims – Perceived Danger – Attraction of Escape –
3. Noise !()!Information!(C)!Danger – Attraction – Density – Noise
Those are loops, i.e. there is no primary cause. Furthermore, straight lines denote
a positive coupling (increase),dashed lines a negative inﬂuence (decrease) in Fig. 1.
Please note that there are positive feedback loops (1 and 2) and there is a negative
feedback loop (3). For (3) the noise level decreases the information ﬂow which again
increase (“minus times minus is plus”) the perceived danger.
The width of the ramp itself is therefore part of the problem. The narrower the
ramp, the higher the local density. If the local density exceeds a certain level, the
feedback loops might be triggered.
There are certain factors that still might prevent the onset of the feedback loop:
• Reducing the stress of the persons (perceived danger and threat) by providing
• Decreasing the attractiveness of the points of attraction.
The ﬁrst of those measures is an intervention on the spot, the second is rather a
preventive measure to be identiﬁed during the planning process and carried out as a
precaution. One major problem of the venue and the event was neverthelessthe fact
that there was effectively only one entry and exit point to the venue. On the other
hand, there were two separate ramps. The venue was opened 2 h lat, which already
led to frustration and congestion on Grabenstraße and Düsseldorfer Straße, since
security checks and entry control were performed when entering Karl-Lehr-Straße.
The system love parade was therefore prone to the feedback loops and consequently
avalanche effects illustrated in Fig. 1. These feedback loops and avalanche effects
were not anticipated during the planning process, which is the second major cause
of the disaster. Of course, the detailed causes of the events cannot be foreseen.
Precautions were planned to avoid overcrowding in the train station after the event
or on the festival area. Less consideration was given to the on-ramp in this regard.
The Love Parade Disaster 1391
5 The Logic of Failure
The assessment of complex systems has been investigated by Dörner . He
identiﬁed major factors as the causes of disasters like the one in Chernobyl. His
conclusions can be transferred to the love parade disaster.
They are illustrated in Fig. 2. We have kept the original formulations of 
(translation by HK) in order to show how similar the psychological and sociological
5.1 Group Think and Disregarding Alternatives
One major factor is group think and the resulting conﬁrmation bias. Once a decision
is made or anticipated, the search for arguments focuses on the support of this
decision. For the case of the love parade, this decision is the choice of the entrances
and exits. There would have been an option to choose an additional entry and exit
via “Am Güterbahnhof” in the north of the festival area (cf. Fig. 1). This was
neither considered by the organizer nor demanded by the authorities (city, police,
or others). There was experience from previous love parades in Dortmund and
Essen. Especially in Dortmund, high densities developed within the central station.
Therefore, the idea was to avoid that in Duisburg by stretching the distance between
the festival area and the station on the way back and consequently decreasing the
inﬂow into the station after the event.
5.2 Conﬁrmation Bias and Overconﬁdence
The planning process of the love parade was based on assumptions that did not
hold true. The question is: was this just accidental or could it have been seen in
advance. It seems to be clear that there have been errors in the planning process and
during the day, i.e. operational mistakes. One major issue is the width of the ramp
towards the festival area and (even moreimportant) that fact that there entry and exit
were combined. “Conﬁrmation bias (also called conﬁrmatory bias, my-side bias or
veriﬁcation bias) is a tendency of people to favour information that conﬁrms their
beliefs or hypotheses.” 
People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when
they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and
for deeply entrenched beliefs. 
A series of experiments in the 1960s suggested that people are biased toward
conﬁrming their existing beliefs. Later work re-interpreted these results as a
tendency to test ideas in a one-sided way, focusing on one possibility and ignoring
alternatives. In certain situations, this tendency can bias people’s conclusions.
1392 H. Klüpfel
Explanations for the observed biases include wishful thinking and the limited
human capacity to process information. Another explanation is that people show
conﬁrmation bias because they are weighing up the costs of being wrong, rather
than investigating in a neutral, scientiﬁc way.
Conﬁrmation biases contribute to overconﬁdence in personal beliefs and can maintain or
strengthen beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. Poor decisions due to these biases have
been found in military, political, and organizational contexts. 
6 Consequences of the Disaster
6.1 Political Consequences
The major political consequence of the love parade disaster was the dismissal of the
Lord Mayor of Duisburg, Adolf Sauerland in February 2012. In the public, he was
blamed for not having reacted properly to the disaster. In the immediate aftermath
of the disaster in July and August 2010, the different parties involved blamed each
other for being responsible.
6.2 Legal Consequences
There is currently a legal investigation. As of May 2012 it is not clear, if and when
this investigation will result in a court procedure. Seventeen persons are currently
indicted, 11 of them employees of the city, the head of the legal and former head of
the city planning department, one high-ranked police ofﬁcer and six employees of
the organizer .
6.3 Consequences for Event Safety
There is currently a discussion going on, whether a special regulation concerning
the safety of events should be implemented. The current “Guideline for Venues”
(Versammlungsstättenverordnung, resp. Sonderbauverordnung NRW for the state
of North-Rhine-Westphalia, where Duisburg is located) has a strong focus on ﬁre
safety [24,25]. This is reﬂected in the description of the width and length of
escape routes, the deﬁnition of ﬁre containment zones, and a focus on preventive
and technical ﬁre safety measures. The ingress into a venue is not regulated. There
is the requirement to provide a safety concept for venues with more than 5,000
visitor spaces. The interpretation is that 5,000 visitors might be at the venue at one
The Love Parade Disaster 1393
single time. The total number of visitors might of course be larger, especially for an
event lasting for a whole day or longer.
6.4 Ultimate and Proximate Causes
What has not been discussed in this paper is the police action. The location of two
chains formed by the police in order to restrict further inﬂow from the ramp to the
festival area. The reason was that there was congestion at the end of the ramp. Floats
were circulating on the festival area. The idea in the safety concept was to pull the
audience entering the area away from the head of the ramp by tuning the movement
of the ﬂoats appropriately. This obviously did not work. Since a major concern was
overcrowding of the festival area itself, the ingress was restricted on the ramp by a
police chain from 16:01 to 16:40 h. Two chains further upstream did not succeed
and broke down at 16:14 h. The most severe crush was during that time. This is a
proximate cause, though. The ultimate causes have been described in the previous
chapter. Nevertheless will the question, if the fatalities could have been prevented
by alternative interventions from the police, be part of the legal investigation.
7 Summary, Conclusion, and Outlook
This paper presented a short summary of the love parade disaster on July, 21st
2010 in Duisburg, Germany. Errors and mistakes during the planning process as
well as in the organization and operation of the event were identiﬁed. All actors
involved have probably contributed to the failures: the municipal authorities, the
organizer, and the police. One major distinction is between ultimate and proximate
causes. The proximate causes are the overcrowdingonthedaycausedbylate
opening, counterﬂow on the ramp, an insufﬁcient management of the inﬂow, non
existing alternative stages, etc. Those causes are proximate in the sense that they
are themselves caused by planning mistakes which are the ultimate causes. These
ultimate causes might include the choice of the festival location and especially the
usage of the tunnel and the two ramps for ingress and egress. The concept chosen
required a near to perfect implementation and operation which was obviously not
the case. Another ultimate cause might have been the fact that this event took place
at this location for the ﬁrst time. Other events – like street parades or carnivals –
that grow over time are based on years of experience and an iterative improvement
of concepts and precautions.
1394 H. Klüpfel
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