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Itaewon crush: ‘It could have been me’

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    1 day ago

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When Jessica Yeto visited South Korea for a two-week trip with her friends, it was supposed to be the holiday they’d dreamed of for four years.

But the 29-year-old was caught up in the deadly Halloween crush, in capital city Seoul, which claimed the lives of 156 people.

“The moment that it hit home was when my mum called me,” she says.

“And I could hear the relief in her voice that she heard my voice and I was OK.”

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“I just thought the idea that if I’d gone on holiday and not made it back, just what that would have done?”

Jessica, who spoke to BBC Newsbeat after returning home to London, was among thousands of young people who converged in Itaewon on Saturday.

She and a group of friends could see “many people in their costumes” in the centre of Seoul, she says.

“Everybody was excited, having fun ready to go out. And the trains were packed.”

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Jessica describes being one of the hundreds leaving the station with “quite a delay getting up and out into the streets”.

“But once we did, you could just see everybody having fun, screaming and laughing.”

Jessica’s group briefly pulled away from the crowds so her friend could use the toilet.

“We’re excited, admiring everyone’s costumes, and then slowly you could sort of see everything started to escalate quite quickly,” she says.

“From it being very calm and happy to seeing a person being pulled away in a gurney.

“And that’s when we started to realise something might have happened.”

‘We could have been involved’

Jessica and her friends thought it was “maybe someone drunk or passed out” but not that there was “imminent danger or that lots of people were hurt”.

About 10 minutes later, she saw “CPR being performed” on people.

“There were maybe five or 10 people on the floor. And people were starting to crowd around.”

In the chaos, Jessica received alerts on her phone, but in Korean, so couldn’t understand what it was about.

Things “suddenly went full speed”, she says, into people being pulled onto the floor.

“And you can see people crying. My friend said she spotted someone who had left the toilet, in the group of people on the floor.”

“If she hadn’t had gone to the toilet, we would have been further along in the street, and could have been involved in the crush.”

Jessica feels authorities could have better anticipated crowds “because the streets are quite steep”.

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As a “frequent concert and festival goer”, Jessica says she will be more cautious when attending big events in future.

“I think this has shown me not to take for granted some of the precautions that are in place,” she says.

“You just go out sometimes and you forget that things have to be prepared. And they’re done in the background, so you don’t really pay attention to it. But they are done for your safety,” she says.

“It’s definitely going to teach me to be more aware and vigilant, and maybe not so relaxed with such large crowds.”

But despite being caught up in a terrible tragedy, Jessica is not put off from going back.

“It happened at the end of my trip. So there are definitely lots of parts that I really enjoyed, and parts of the country that I think are really beautiful,” she adds.

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