/ 1 January 2011

Ten dead in North West tavern stampede

Ten people died in a horrific stampede at a New Year’s day celebration in Ipelegeng, the North West Public Safety department said.

“Most of the deceased were underage,” said spokesperson Lesiba Kgwele on Saturday.

Spokesperson Captain Adele Myburgh said however the ages of victims had not yet been confirmed.

Police suspect the deceased were between 18 and 25-years-old.

She said the stampede occurred at the entrance to a tavern’s dance area at 2.15am.

“The exact cause of the stampede will be determined during the investigation,” said Myburgh.

Circumstances surrounding the incident were not clear and no further details were released by authorities.

However, the South African Broadcasting Corporation reported that a fight had broken out among some of the patrons, which led to the stampede.

Myburgh and Kgwele could not confirm this.

Police have called for calm as tensions in the area were high.

“We request the community to remain calm and not take the law into their own hands,” a statement released by Myburgh said.

“People must act responsibly in assisting the police with their investigation.”

Ipelegeng mayor Kenneth Pshipelo said the township was in a state of shock and disbelief following the stampede.

“It’s not something that has occurred in this community before and people are taken aback.

“The situation is calm right now … but this is the first and worst incident we have ever had.”

A government delegation was expected to visit the affected families and pass on their condolences later on Saturday, he said.

The province’s human settlements minister Desbo Mohono called for a thorough investigation.

“Someone should be held accountable for the incident which robbed families and the community of valuable lives,” he said.

“We are distraught and saddened by the deaths.”

Mohono sent his condolences to the families and said several questions needed to be answered.

These related to the cause of the stampede, possible overcrowding, underage patrons, and whether the tavern owner took precautionary steps to ensure safety.

“Should this not be the case they should consider charging the owner of the tavern for negligence and pursuing profit at the expense of safety of his patrons,” he said. – Sapa