Two American students were among 154 people killed in a mob disaster during Halloween celebrations in the South Korean capital of Seoul on Saturday night.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Sunday declared a week-long period of national mourning for those who lost their lives in the resulting crush after as many as 100,000 revelers crowded into the living quarters Itaewon nightlife.
Among the dead was Anna Gieske, 20, an American nursing student at the University of Kentucky who had studied abroad in South Korea and logged her travels on Instagram.
“I have an incredibly sad responsibility to inform you of the loss of one of our students this weekend,” university president Eli Capilouto said in a statement to students and faculty on Sunday.
“There are no adequate or appropriate words to describe the pain of a beautiful life cut short. It is neither fair nor understandable. It is a loss and it hurts in ways that are impossible to articulate.
Steven Blesi, a 20-year-old student at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, was also killed in the disaster, according to his father Steve Blesi.
“We have just received confirmation that our son has passed away,” Mr Blesi Sr said on Twitter on Sunday. “Thank you for the outpouring of love. We need time to grieve.
He said The New York Times: “[My son] was an adventurous spirit and a loving spirit. That’s the only way I know to describe it. And the loss is simply unbearable.
It is not yet known exactly how or why the disaster occurred. South Korean police formed a nearly 600-man task force to investigate the incident.
However, early reports and statements from emergency service officials suggest it was a crowd crush, in which people were squeezed so tightly together, or under such a weight of people who fell on them, that they couldn’t breathe.
Witnesses and survivors described a “hellish” chaos of people falling on top of each other “like dominoes”, with the entire Itaewon area congested with vehicles and crowds of revelers that prevented rescuers from reaching the victims.
It would be the first public celebration of Halloween in three years after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, and most of the dead were teenagers or adults in their 20s.
A crowd crush at a soccer game in Indonesia killed 130 people earlier this month, while a similar event at the Astroworld Festival in Texas killed 10 people last year.